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Report Highlights Birds Making Comeback in Illinois

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PHOTO: The peregrine falcon is among the success stories highlighted in a report marking the 40th Anniversary of the Endangered Species Act. Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Frank Doyle.
PHOTO: The peregrine falcon is among the success stories highlighted in a report marking the 40th Anniversary of the Endangered Species Act. Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Frank Doyle.
 By Mary KuhlmanContact
December 26, 2013

CHICAGO - Typically, being on a "D-list" is a bad thing, but not for a bird that has made Illinois a home. The peregrine falcon's delisting as a federally endangered species is one of the biggest success stories of the Endangered Species Act, according to a recent report from the Endangered Species Coalition.

Tierra Curry, senior scientist, Center for Biological Diversity, said there were only 324 peregrines in 1975, and now there are about 3,500 pairs.

"The peregrine has made a huge rebound. They're found across the United States now, and Chicago is one of the places where they're doing very well. They live on the skyscrapers and eat other birds," Curry said.

Also living in Illinois and on the report's list is the bald eagle, with approximately 135 pairs in the state. Saturday marks the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act.

Peregrine falcons were almost wiped out in the Midwest by the 1960s. Curry said human behavior was partly to blame.

"One of the reasons the peregrine was declining was because of the pesticide DDT that caused its egg shells to thin, so when the parents went to incubate the eggs, the eggs would literally just collapse under them," she said.

Protections in the Endangered Species Act, including a ban on DDT and restrictions on keeping falcons as pets, helped the peregrine's comeback in the United States.

Curry said marking the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act is a milestone, especially for all who have worked to gain protections for animals and their habitats.

"We're very lucky to live in a country with such a strong environmental law," she said, "so that species that are on the brink of extinction get the help that they need to survive."

According to the report, 90 percent of species covered by the Endangered Species Act are recovering at the pace expected in their scientific recovery plans.

The full report, "Back from the Brink," is available at www.Endangered.org.

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