JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Conservation Commission gave initial approval at its Jan. 22 open meeting to remove the peregrine falcon from the state’s endangered species list while keeping it a species of conservation concern. The vote came after a proposed status and regulation change from the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC). Peregrine falcons were removed from the federal endangered species list in 1999.
Peregrine falcon populations plummeted nationwide during the 1940s through the 1960s due to the widespread use of pesticides such as dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) in their food chain. The peregrine was placed on the federal endangered species list in 1970 and on the Missouri state-endangered species list in 1974. Peregrines were removed from the federal endangered species list in 1999 due to intensive restoration efforts. Peregrines have remained on the Missouri state-endangered species list since.
According to MDC Urban Wildlife Biologist and Falcon Recovery Lead Joe DeBold, MDC’s Peregrine Falcon Recovery Working Group has been studying the world’s fastest bird and has determined that the state’s population and distribution of peregrine falcons warrant the delisting as a state endangered species.
“Our Missouri peregrine falcon recovery goal of 12 breeding pairs in the state was exceeded in 2013 and now stands at 14 known active breeding pairs distributed across seven counties,” explained DeBold. “Peregrines will remain a species of conservation concern in the state. If the breeding population declines below seven breeding pairs, MDC will work with conservation partners to determine if expanded monitoring or protection is needed.”
While human activities once harmed the birds through the widespread use of pesticides in their food chain, human efforts have also helped bring them back.
“All of our 14 peregrine breeding pairs in Missouri use artificial nest boxes in our urban areas around Kansas City or St. Louis,” explained MDC State Ornithologist Sarah Kendrick. “They seem to prefer the nest boxes over natural nesting sites in the state on rocky cliffs and bluffs on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. This may be due to an abundance of food in the form of urban pigeons.”
Kendrick added that two breeding peregrine pairs have been documented successfully nesting since 2012 along the rocky bluffs on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River north of the greater St. Louis area, so peregrines may start using natural nesting sites in Missouri.
In addition to the bird’s removal from the state endangered species list, MDC is proposing a regulation change to the Wildlife Code of Missouri that would allow the limited capture of young migratory falcons for use in falconry. The allowance for falconers to capture a limited number of birds is based on authorization from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The proposed regulation change would allow a statewide total maximum of five permits annually for the capture of one young, wild, migrant falcon. Only those with a Master Falconer Permit may capture a falcon.
“Only hatch-year or first-year birds from northern breeding populations that migrate through Missouri would be allowed to be captured. Adult falcons will not be allowed to be taken for falconry,” explained DeBold. “All peregrine falcons hatched in Missouri are banded with metal federal bird bands. If a peregrine captured in Missouri for falconry has any sort of state, federal, or other band from Missouri or elsewhere, the bird must be released immediately.”
MDC invites public comment on the status and regulation changes for peregrine falcons March 2-31 online at mdc.mo.gov/about-regulations/wildlife-code-missouri/proposed-regulation-changes and by mail to: Regulations Committee Chairman, Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180.
MDC will then review all comments received and present a final proposal for a final vote by the Commission this summer. If approved, the regulation change will become effective Aug. 30.
Learn more about peregrine falcons from MDC’s online Field Guide at nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/peregrine-falcon
More than 735 kinds of plants and 410 different animals in Missouri are of concern to conservationists because they are uncommon or because their numbers are low or declining. Learn more about Missouri endangered species and species of conservation concern at nature.mdc.mo.gov/status/endangered.