Bird of the Week

Photo courtesy Charles Martinez

This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the peregrine falcon.
This falcon is around 15-20 inches long, with pointed wings and narrow tail. It is slate gray on top and heavily spotted underneath. On the side of its head are distinctive black “sideburns.” The photo is of Dooley, an injured peregrine kept by licensed wildlife rehabilitator Pat Jackson.
Peregrines are awe-inspiring flyers and hunters. They catch their prey (mostly small birds) by striking them mid-air with a foot at the bottom of long, steep dives called stoops. Peregrines can reach speeds of over 200 mph in these dives, making them the fastest animal on earth. They do not build a nest, but lay their eggs on a cliff, the nest of another bird or on tall buildings in cities.
At one time, peregrines were threatened with extinction due to organochloride pesticides reaching them through the food chain and causing their eggshells to become greatly weakened. In her book, “Wings for My Flight,” Marcy Houle states, “By 1975 only seven pairs of wild peregrines remained in the entire Rocky Mountain region of Colorado, Montana and Wyoming.” One of these pairs was nesting at Chimney Rock.
Her book documents her study of this pair. Peregrines continue to call Chimney Rock home.
Fortunately, these pesticides have become illegal and through captive breeding programs and various conservation efforts, the peregrine falcon has made an amazing comeback.
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