Peregrines up, Goshawks down

Peregrine falcon mother feeding chicks, Ohio, 2020 (photo by Chad+Chris Saladin)

4 August 2021

“The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave preliminary approval to remove the peregrine falcon from the state’s threatened species list and place the northern goshawk on the state’s endangered-species list.” — PA Game Commission Press Release, 24 July 2021

In Pennsylvania peregrines are up, goshawks are down.

Peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus) went extinct east of the Mississippi in the 1960’s due to the long lasting effects of DDT. When the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1972 peregrines were among the first to be added to the list. Pennsylvania had gone from 44 nesting pairs to none.

Peregrine falcon at Gull Point, Presque Isle State Park, 2012 (photo by Steve Gosser)

Thanks to the Peregrine Recovery Program, captive-bred peregrines were released in the eastern U.S. in the 1970s through 1990s. The descendants of those birds thrive in new places, including Pittsburgh, in cities and on man-made structures. There are now 73 nesting pairs in Pennsylvania and their population is secure. Their recovery took 50 years.

Peregrine falcon Dorothy at the Cathedral of Learning, Pittsburgh, June 2012 (photo by Peter Bell)

In my lifetime peregrine falcons went from extinct in Pennsylvania to my very own Yard Bird. What a happy day!

Unfortunately the news is not happy for northern goshawks (Accipiter gentilis) a shy, fierce raptor of the northern woods. Goshawks are so shy in the U.S. that human presence in their nesting zone can cause the nest to fail. (They are not as shy in Europe, photo below.)

Northern goshawk, Netherlands, 2018 (photo by Martha de Jong-Lantink via Flickr Creative Commons license)

Goshawks have experienced range contraction and a dramatic population decline in Pennsylvania in the past 20 years. Though never plentiful, I haven’t seen one since 2018 and that was in Newfoundland, Canada.

Northern goshawk on nest, Kaibab National Forest, Arizona, 2009 (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

“Classifying the northern goshawk as an endangered species would further protect it by limiting or delaying certain activities within northern goshawk breeding habitat during courtship and nesting seasons.” — PA Game Commission Press Release, 24 July 2021

I look forward to a brighter future for the northern goshawk.

Approval of the peregrine’s and goshawk’s status will be brought to a final vote at the PA Game Commissioners’ September 2021 meeting.

For more information read this Trib-Live article by Mary Ann Thomas and the PA Game Commission 24 July 2021 press release.

(photos by Chad+Chris Saladin, Steve Gosser, Peter Bell, Martha de Jong-Lantink and Wikimedia Commons; click on the linked captions to see the originals)

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