OLYMPIA - The steady recovery of Washington state's peregrine falcon population has led the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to propose a change in the bird's listing status. The recommendation will be presented to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission for action at its April 12-13 meeting in Ellensburg.
A 30-day public review period for the final peregrine falcon status report and listing recommendation begins today. The agency is recommending a reclassification of the bird from "endangered" to "sensitive" status.
Endangered species are those in danger of becoming extinct in the state, while sensitive species are those that are vulnerable to decline and needing continued monitoring and management consideration.
"We will continue to monitor the birds' progress," said WDFW's Endangered Species Section Manager Harriet Allen. "Washington's peregrine population is still small, with 72 pairs found in 2001. However, given the dramatic increase in the number and distribution of birds over the past two decades, we believe changing the falcon's status is warranted."
Biologists found just five peregrine falcon pairs in Washington in 1980, when the species was listed as endangered by the Fish and Wildlife Commission.
Falcon numbers throughout the United States plunged shortly after the Second World War because of the widespread use of the pesticide DDT, which accumulated in the birds that peregrine falcons eat and led to extremely low falcon reproduction. DDT was banned in the early 1970s and the falcons, aided by reintroduction programs throughout the nation, have made a swift recovery.
While the bird was removed from the federal Endangered Species Act list of endangered and threatened species in 1999, peregrine falcons are still protected by the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
The world's fastest birds, peregrine falcons have been clocked at 200 miles per hour as they hunt other birds. They nest in high cliffs and have successfully colonized in metropolitan areas, including Seattle and Spokane, where they nest on skyscrapers and bridges and prey upon pigeons and other urban birds.
Copies of the final status report and listing recommendation are available on the Department's website, at WDFW's main Olympia headquarters, and in public libraries. Copies can also be obtained by sending a request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written comments are due by March 12 and can be mailed to: Endangered Species Section Manager, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA., 98501-1091.