This peregrine falcon success story begins in 1996, when a young male peregrine falcon was seen soaring high in the sky over the city streets and buildings of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. For bird watchers this was something very special. Okay, what's so special about this bird? We see birds in the city all the time. Well, this bird is an endangered species. Endangered means that there are very few of them in the wild and if not protected and given a clean healthy environment to live in, they could become extinct.
Peregrines were never common in Pennsylvania. There were only 44 known nest sites in our state. Most of these sites were along cliffs and rivers, but some were on city buildings. Peregrine falcons, along with other raptors, began to decline with the arrival of a pesticide called DDT in the 1940s. DDT was used to control insects, often sprayed on crops. Falcons ate prey containing DDT. Called bioaccumulation, DDT would build up or accumulate in their bodies hindering egg formation and causing the eggs to be formed with thin shells. These fragile eggs often broke during incubation. Unable to reproduce, the peregrine population declined. By the early 1960s, there weren't any nesting peregrines in Pennsylvania or east of the Mississippi River.
In 1972, DDT was banned from use in the United States, however, it still is used in other countries. Beginning in the mid-1970s, the Pennsylvania Game Commission ornithologists, falconers and many other organizations and individuals worked together to bring back the Peregrine Falcon to Pennsylvania and the Eastern United States. This young male peregrine falcon seen flying in Harrisburg in 1996 was the happy result of the restoration program.