Discover Nature: Missouri’s Peregrine Falcons
A speedy wanderer has returned to Missouri's skies. The Peregrine falcon was nearly wiped out in the mid-1900s due to pesticide poisoning. Historically, peregrines nested in small numbers on bluffs along the Mississippi, Missouri, and Gasconade rivers. By the late 1800s, only a few pairs remained in the state.
With a chemical ban in place, biologists and falconers banded together to return falcons to places where they had disappeared. Falconers bred the birds and hatched the eggs, and biologists raised the chicks until they could live on their own.
The word "Peregrine" means "wanderer" or "pilgrim." Although they have one of the largest migrations of North American birds, their great homing instincts bring them back to favored nesting sites that may be used for many generations.
Reintroduction projects have been relatively successful, and populations of peregrines have been established, with the birds using tall buildings as substitutes for cliff nesting sites, and more returning to former nest sites on suitable bluffs. Now, the world's most common and fastest bird of prey can be seen around large cities and waterways.
Peregrine falcons have been prized by falconers since ancient times for their ability to hunt prey. They hunt from high up in the sky and go into deep aerial dives at speeds topping 200 miles per hour to snatch their prey. Common feasts can include pigeons, shorebirds, and ducks. They often nest on skyscrapers in large cities.
Today, people are thrilled by their intensely fast flight and maneuvering ability. As this species has neared extinction, humans have rallied to save it—attesting to our appreciation of Peregrines.
Learn more about Peregrine falcons in Missouri at MissouriConservation.org.