Peregrine Falcon populations
Editor's note
by Janusz Sielicki and Tadeusz Mizera

The Peregrine Falcon is a species which has been of particular interest to man for thousands of years. It is one of few birds which induces such ambiguous feelings. It is admired by ornithologists, falconers and those who love the falcon for its beauty, speed and hunting skills. On the other hand it is persecuted by pigeon breeders and some hunters. Another modern threat for falcons is tourism – the human passion for exploring rocks often results in destruction of Peregrine nests; paragliders also constitute a hazard. In some countries, particularly in the former Soviet Union, there is also a trend to decorate houses and apartments with stuffed animals. While it is understandable that hunters expose their trophies in such a way, buying a stuffed falcon or eagle on the market deserves full reprobation.

The Peregrine Falcon turned out to be incredibly sensitive to chemical compounds applied in agriculture in the 20th century, which almost led to its extinction. Fundamental research concerning the reasons behind the extinction of the entire falcon populations in North America and Europe proved a negative influence from DDT on the condition of the environment. This turned people’s attention to the necessity of taking care of the world’s environment. This resulted in the issuing of a ban on the application of this pesticide in Canada, the USA, Western Europe and then in many other countries. The Peregrine Falcon also became an icon for the active protection of species. Methods to develop breeding and reintroduction by falconers contributed to the restoration of many extinct populations. The now restored population in the USA is so strong and stable that the Peregrine Falcon has been removed from the list of endangered species and it is even possible to obtain some Peregrines for falconry purposes - both nestlings and migrating individuals. Some populations are so well restored that certain reintroduction programmes have already been completed. The Peregrine holds a critically important position near the top of the food chain that enables it to be used as a sentinel for certain toxic contaminants within the environment (see Resolution 3).

Success achieved in this domain encouraged naturalists to save, by breeding and reintroduction, many other species of birds, e.g. California Condor, Mauritius Kestrel and others. Such varying history of the Peregrine Falcon has resulted in the necessity to exchange information and experience between Peregrine specialists. At a symposium in Poland in September 2007 specialists met from Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Austria, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania, Spain, France, Italy, Russia, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, United Kingdom, USA, Republic of South Africa and Australia. In our mother tongues we call this bird: Sokol stěhovaty, Wanderfalke, Halcon Peregrino, Faucon pélerin, Muuttohaukka, Vándorsólyom, Pellegrino, Slechtvalk, Sokół wędrowny, сапсан (Sapsan), Pilgrimsfalk, Black-cheeked Falcon, Duck Hawk and many others. In Great Britain alternative names have been used as follows: Great-footed Hawk, Duck Hawk, Hunting Hawk, Game Hawk, Blue Hawk, Blue Sleeves, Gled/ Glead, Blue-back hawk, Grey Falcon, Perry Hawk, Stone Falcon, Rock Eagle (Ratcliffe 1993). These various names were the only differences which divided participants at the conference. Everyone unanimously supported the idea of the protection of the Peregrine Falcon and supported resolutions which specify the most important challenges in terms of protection of this species. We give readers a book characterising the current condition of the population of the Peregrine Falcon across most of Europe and in many countries on other continents. It is the most up to date collection of knowledge concerning this species at the turn of the 21st century, as a result of the largest European conference devoted to the Peregrine Falcon. The previous conference focusing on the Peregrine Falcon, which took place in Poland in 1994, was much smaller (see Acta Ornithologica 30, 1995).

During famous conferences in 1965 (Madison) and 1985 (Sacramento) causes were diagnosed surrounding the crisis of the Peregrine Falcon population in almost the whole range of this cosmopolitan species. The condition of the Peregrine population in Europe was not given much space at the time, however having compared data from this book with materials from those conferences, it can be seen how significantly the situation of the Peregrine Falcon in Europe and in the world has improved. We were honoured to welcome at our conference several participants of the Sacramento meeting and we can directly compare their studies with those from 20 years ago. This book summarises pioneering programme in America on the restoration of Falco peregrinus anatum. Several studies discuss results of the reintroduction of the nominative subspecies Falco peregrinus peregrinus in Sweden, Germany and Poland, as well as active protection projects in France, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia and many other countries. Quantitative data were also given concerning subspecies Falco peregrinus japonensis from Kuril Islands, Falco peregrinus calidus in Russia and F. p. brookei in Spain, Italy, Armenia and Ukraine. Interesting data was included in the study from South Africa and Namibia, concerning the population of Falco peregrinus minor. Interestingly there are also very rarely encountered pieces of information about Falco peregrinus ernestii from Malaysia, since those areas are poorly explored in ornithological terms. We also get to know about the unique situation regarding the Australian subspecies Falco peregrinus macropus, which nests in four types of nests (including hollows). Overview of Peregrine in India show the local breeding populations of Shaheens (Falco peregrinus babylonicus and F. p. peregrinator) and wintering F. p. calidus. A very interesting study from Argentina presents three colour forms of Falco peregrinus cassini, one of them was once thought to be a separate species, Falco kreyenborgi in an innovative manner.

Luckily, in many countries after the DDT era, many local Peregrine populations have been restored – this was partly due to natural reasons and partly supported by the reintroduction and other active protection programmes. In studies by Russian colleagues, very optimistic data has been included stating a very strong increase in population. A very helpful list of Russian language websites was presented at the conference where one can find out about the rich literature of Russian colleagues and other countries of the former Soviet Union. We also have a very wide presentation of the population studies from different parts of Russia, including Siberia. In many papers the question of the migration and wintering habits of the species occurs. We agreed that there is still a lot to study about the migration of the Peregrine Falcon, which is a must for the proper protection of this species on a global level (see Resolution 2).

The initiation of the restoration of a tree-nesting population of Peregrine Falcon raises hopes in Central and Eastern Europe. This population once amounted to several thousand pairs, residing in a range from central Russia, through Belarus, Poland, Germany to the Netherlands before going completely extinct. Through reintroduction programmes the population is currently being restored in Germany and Poland. In Northern Germany 19 pairs are already nesting in trees. It allows for optimism that the species shall return to its own forest territories in Central Europe. The tree-nesting Peregrine is one of the most endangered species of birds in Europe and therefore it should be deemed extremely endangered in the European Union countries (see Resolution 4).

Several studies have been devoted to food of Peregrines, paying attention to the role played by pigeons, including Racing Pigeons. Attention was also drawn to a new threat brought about by the wild nesting of hybrids which have been created in captivity for falconers’ needs. A study by Scottish colleagues seems outstanding, since they applied PIT (Passive Integrated Transponder) for the recognition of individuals without the necessity of having to catch them. New technologies allow for collecting new data concerning the biology of falcons. Furthermore, a Welsh study is also remarkable due to the use of metal detectors for finding pigeon rings, even after many years. Another aspect of research of this species is monitoring environmental pollution by the analysis of biological material from falcons. Several studies also display enormous contribution by falconers towards saving the Peregrine Falcon and ensuring its protection as well as potential for environmental conservation through the rational use of its resources.

Several other studies tackle the issue of the existence of the Peregrine in urban locations. In the centres of big cities in Europe and America (as well as other continents) the Peregrine Falcon has found a new dwelling and we are witnessing a rapid development of these populations. In many nests cameras have been mounted, which not only record the scenes from the lives of these birds, but primarily, due to availability of viewing over the Internet, enable millions of web users to get to know daily life of these falcons. Such a wide spread of information will certainly bring results in the form of better protection. We can only protect what we know.

Precious supplemental papers include research discussing the situation of the Saker Falcon in Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia, the most important area for this species in Europe.

Besides presenting research at the conference, we also had several discussions in the form of round-tables. They resulted in resolutions which refer to the restitution of the tree-nesting population of Peregrine Falcons in Europe, the potential role of research concerning this species in further monitoring of environmental pollution and protection of the Peregrine as a migratory species. The gathered specialists also appointed the European Peregrine Falcon Working Group in order to further cooperate in terms of research and protection of this species.

We appeal to all those interested in Peregrine Falcons to cooperate in the framework of the Group in future research projects and mainly in terms of information exchange.

We are especially thankful to Professor Ian Newton, Professor Tom J. Cade and Professor Clayton M. White, who agreed to write their personal notes for this book.

And last, but not least - we thank also to all the team working with editing this book on the side of Publisher and Printing House, especially Tomasz Stołowski, who did the nightmare job of putting all those papers together. We hope that this book will enable better recognition of the king of the skies, the Peregrine Falcon.

Peregrine Falcon populations
Status and perspectives in the 21st century
Edited by Janusz Sielicki and Tadeusz Mizera
ISBN 978-83-920969-6-2
Published by TURUL / Poznan University of Life Sciences Press, Warsaw / Poznan 2009
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