falcons whitewater

Whitewater State Park Manager Brent Anderson prepares to release a peregrine falcon, D32. The female falcon was found injured near the park in late June and was rehabilitated at the Raptor Center in St. Paul, Minn.

The cliffs of Whitewater State Park have been home to peregrine falcons for centuries, including to a breeding pair that successfully fledged three chicks earlier this summer. On June 26, park neighbors discovered the adult female, with leg band number D32, was injured near their property. She was transported to the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota, St. Paul campus.

Raptor Center staff were able to retrieve the leg band data and determine the falcon was hatched in 2019. After examining her, it was determined she was suffering from a right humerus (wing) fracture. Veterinarians there performed surgery to repair the bone but there was significant soft tissue damage that needed to heal. After two months of rehabilitation, the falcon was able to return to the skies of Whitewater State Park on Thursday, September 2.

Peregrine falcons faced extinction not so long ago due to widespread use of DDT and other organochlorine pesticides — chlorinated hydrocarbons used extensively from the 1940s through the 1960s in agriculture and mosquito control. These pesticides built up in the bodies of creatures at the top of the food chain, like falcons, eagles and other birds of prey, and caused thinning of the eggshells, which then smashed under the weight of incubating parents.

During the decade of the 1960s, there was only one recorded breeding pair of peregrine falcons in the entire state of Minnesota. That pair was able to successfully hatch one chick, which was banded at Whitewater State Park on June 3, 1962. From then until they returned in 2009, there were no peregrines at Whitewater State Park. Thanks to outspoken scientists and citizens and a massive education campaign and reintroduction effort of past decades, DDT was banned and falcons have returned to the skies of the Midwest.

Across the nation, thousands of raptors face injury each year due to collisions; with vehicles, glass, communication towers, turbines, solar panels and other obstructions. More than 1,000 raptors are admitted to the Raptor Center every year. Care and rehabilitation for these birds is made possible mostly through donations. Learn more about the Raptor Center at www.theraptorcenter.org.

To view a YouTube video of the falcon release at Whitewater State Park, visit tinyurl.com/2p8kuaj3.