Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Generalists

Did you guess? Do you remember the question? I'd asked which animal relies on huge urban pigeon populations to help it survive in the city.

The answer is the Peregrine Falcon. Now I know you might be saying "Hold on there, Jungle Jane. I remember in the 1970s the Peregrine Falcon was critically endangered and extinct on the East Coast of the United States. True generalists don't get critically endangered, they thrive!"
And I would say, "You're right, unless the animal in question was driven to near extinction by humans." Now that the U.S. and other countries have banned the use of the pesticide DDT, the Peregrine Falcon is making an amazing comeback. And one of the places they are coming back to is the city.

Since humans were responsible for the Peregrine's decline, humans took responsibility for their resurgence. Captive breeding programs were started and achieved success. However, when it came time to release the fledglings, there was another problem. Natural habitats for falcons are mountain ranges, river valleys and coastlines. But the falcon's natural enemies, foxes, owls, and raccoons, also inhabit these areas. Where would the fledglings have the high, cliff-like habitat they preferred, but without the threat of predation? Cities became the answer. Falcons could perch and nest on skyscrapers and cathedrals. And since a peregrine's preferred food is medium-sized birds it can catch on the wing, the hope that they would become a natural deterrent to the overwhelming pigeon population was a bonus. Currently, successful nesting pairs of Peregrine Falcons can be found in cities across the United States, Canada and Europe. Wild falcons are also enjoying the abundance of an urban habitat, and in 1999 the Peregrine Falcon was officially removed from the Endangered Species list. The Peregrine's population has continued to grow and among city dwellers, it has become a mark of distinction to live, work or worship in a building that is graced by the presence of a Falcon.

Photo courtesy of Philip MacKenzie

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I absolutely love "the new look".
I am learning a new word this week--"generalist".
I have continued to believe that the peregrine falcon was on the endangered species list. Now I am learning that this bird is thriving and living in cities. Wow!!!!