Falcons take flight in greater numbers | News, Sports, Jobs
Peregrine falcon populations are skyrocketing in the skies these days, in part thanks to conservation efforts across the state and locally.
Dan Brauning, a retired Game Commission wildlife biologist and co-author of a falcon management and recovery plan, said he has seen their numbers increase in Lycoming County in recent years.
Pennsylvania Board of Game commissioners this week removed birds of prey from endangered species in the state.
The move comes two years after the Game Commission upgraded the peregrine falcon from endangered to threatened.
“This is an important step for the conservation community”, said Brauning. “Peregrine falcons were extinct from all of the eastern United States by the 1970s.”
This was due, at least in part, he said, to the widespread use of DDT, a once widely used insecticide that poses serious health concerns to humans and wildlife.
But over the past 40 years, recovery efforts, including those of the Game Commission, have helped increase the number of peregrine falcons.
Local efforts have included the placement of a birdhouse now located on the Market Street Bridge in Williamsport where hawks lay eggs.
“It is a technique to improve nesting success” said Brauning.
A pair of hawks now nesting there have slowly but surely helped introduce more raptors locally.
As early as the 1990s, young peregrine falcons were released in the town of Wililamsport on the rooftop of the Genetti Hotel to help establish their populations, according to Brauning.
Despite their increased numbers, don’t expect to see large flocks of birds populating the sky.
“The pilgrims that you would still call quite rare” said Brauning.
Still, there are places where they can be found, including the nesting cliffs in the Pine Creek Gorge in Tioga County.
In addition to removing peregrine falcons from the endangered species list, the commissioners gave final approval to a separate motion to provide greater protection for the peregrine falcon. As part of the penalty for killing an endangered species, a replacement cost of $ 5,000 can be assessed. But when a recovered animal is taken off the endangered species list, the replacement cost drops to just $ 200, unless regulatory changes are made to increase it.