Why Protect Peregrines

The Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) was once one of North America’s most widespread raptors (birds of prey) occurring from coast to coast and from Mexico to the far Artic. But in the 1940’s the use of agricultural chemicals exploded, and by 1950, the peregrine population plunged toward extinction. By the ‘60s, the bird was losing ground rapidly. Despite measures adopted in the late 1960s to protect the Peregrine, the population continued to decline until 1975. Through the combined efforts of private groups and government agencies, a slow recovery of the bird has begun and the population continues to grow at a slow but steady rate.

The Peregrine is extremely susceptible to several pesticides, especially DDT and DDE. Birds ingest pesticides through the plants and insects they consume and the Peregrine ingests these chemicals through the flesh of the birds it preys upon. The chemicals then concentrate in the Peregrine, resulting in eggs with thin and brittle shells. The thin shells are crushed by the female warming them or are too thin to allow the young bird to develop.

How To Recognize Peregrines

  • Adults are 14-18 inches tall, 3-3.5 foot wingspan.
  • Calls “Kak-kak-kak” (defensive); “E-chup” (familiarization); Wail (hunger or location).
  • Female is 1/3 larger, otherwise no distinguishing marks between sexes.
  • Adults have black heads, light patch on the cheeks, yellow eye-ring and black feathers extending down from beak.
  • Back and wings are dark to bluish-silver; tail is broad and blackish with lighter bands.
  • Breast, belly and underside of wings is white with dark bars.
  • Immature birds have a darker, brownish underside.
  • The Peregrine soars with wings flat and tail spread wide. It uses short, powerful wing beats. The birds hunts using an impressive vertical dive with wings tucked tight against its body. These dives can reach 200 m.p.h. and allow the bird to capture its prey in flight.

Peregrines nest on cliff ledges, laying their eggs on the rock without any nest. They sometimes use an abandoned raven or eagle nest when a rock ledge is not available. The area below the nest will be covered with whitish dropping.

Peregrines nest from February through June and bear up to three or four young. Adults will attempt to protect their nest by making repeated high speed passes near you while continuously calling. If you come closer, they are known to attack the heads and backs of intruders.

Why Climbing Closures

The Endangered Species Act mandates protection of endangered species. Land managers protect suspected or actual Peregrine nest sites against disturbance during critical periods. Also, public land managers must consult with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service before permitting any activity that may affect the Peregrine.

The period just before egg-laying through fledging (rearing) is most critical. Birds are allowed to establish a nest site and fledge their young undisturbed. Once the young birds have fledged, or if a site is not used, the site is no longer sensitive and is re-opened. The extent of closures is determined using several factors: prior nesting in the area; the “lay of the land”; and prior climbing activity.

Climbers cannot affect the first two factors; but you can, and will, affect the third. The more responsible ALL CLIMBERS are, the less threatening we, as climbers, are judges to be. We must ACT RESPONSIBLY and OBEY ALL CLOSURES, ALL THE TIME.
Folowing is a list of Arizona closures that we know about. If you know of one that isn’t on the list please email dief@phoenixrockgym.com with info on the closure. Thanks.

Camelback: East side of Camel’s head, “The Neck” route and “Line of Fire” from February 1 to May 31. For info call 602 261-8318.

Granite Mountain: Entire cliff face will be closed from February 1 to July 15.

Thumb Butte: Closed February to July 15.

Chochise Stronghold: 340 acres around Rockfellow Dome / Dome Park will be closed from February 15 to June 30.

For other closures around the country check the Access Fund site.