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Iowa's Fastest Flying Falcon!

Iowa's Fastest Flying Falcon!

One of Iowa’s most fascinating and rare birds of prey is currently getting down to the serious business of nesting. The Iowa DNR worked with many partners for many years to reintroduce this species into Iowa and help get it removed from the federal endangered species list. Today Iowa plays host to between 15-20 nesting pairs around the state. We’re celebrating the start of another nesting year by sharing some interesting facts with you all!

  • The peregrine is one of three falcons which nests here in Iowa. The other two falcons are the small and colorful American Kestrel and the small and fierce Merlin.  Merlins were thought to no longer nest in Iowa until a couple of active nest sites were discovered a few years ago.
  • The scientific name for peregrine falcon is Falco peregrinus, which means wandering falcon. During migration, peregrines may travel great distances.  Peregrines nesting in the Arctic are known to migrate to Central and South America during the winter.
  • Peregrine falcons are a thing of nightmares to their preferred prey – other birds. In pursuit of prey, they can fly 60 mph straight forward and when in a hunting diving, called a stoop, can reach up to 200-240 mph! This makes them one of the fastest animals on the planet.
  • Peregrine falcons have been trained to be used in falconry hunting for over a thousand years and in fact, captive breeding by falconers was instrumental in the conservation and restoration of the species after its population was devastated by the chemical DDT. The peregrine falcon was taken off of the U.S. Threatened and Endangered Species List in 1999. 
  • Many peregrine falcons in Iowa and elsewhere nest on tall buildings in urban centers or the large smokestacks of energy plants. They successfully use these structures because they resemble their natural nesting grounds – the faces of cliffs and bluffs.
  • Nests are simply a scrape in the dirt or gravel of a cliff ledge, building alcove, or nest structure.
  • Breeding pairs tend to be monogamous throughout their lifespan and return to the same nesting location year after year.
  • Two nest sites in Iowa are on prominent municipal buildings: the Dubuque courthouse (which has a webcam) and the Iowa State Capitol Building!

Iowa is incredibly privileged to have these magnificent birds share the state with us! Be sure to check out the Dubuque Courthouse webcam to get a front row seat to this falcon family’s next few months.  Photos are courtesy of Dubuque County Government.

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