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Contact: Bruce Connery, 207-288-8726
Adult peregrine falcons are once again defending nesting territories and engaging in breeding behavior on the cliff above Valley Cove on Somes Sound and on Jordan Cliff in Acadia National Park, Superintendent Sheridan Steele announced today. The peregrine falcon is listed as an endangered species under the Maine Endangered Species Act.
In order to protect the nesting birds from inadvertent disturbance or harassment, the areas in and around Jordan Cliff and the cliff above Valley Cove are closed to all visitor and operational activities. These closures include the popular Jordan Cliff on Penobscot Mountain and the North Section of Flying Mountain Trail found at the base of the cliff on the eastern side of St. Sauveur Mountain. The trails are clearly marked with signs that identify the reason for the closure, the dates, and a map that delineates the area of the closure. Additional notices about the closures will be posted at all appropriate parking areas, trail heads and junctions with more detailed information available at park visitor contact stations or at park headquarters. Trails will remain closed until approximately five weeks after the chicks take their first flights, or fledge, from their nests. Superintendent Steele and the park staff anticipate the opening of these closed areas in late July or early August. If the park biologist determines that the nesting attempt has failed at either of these sites later this spring or early in the summer, the park will cancel the closure and the trails will be opened once they have been determined to be in good condition and safe for hiking.
Park staff and volunteers continue to observe other cliffs in the park including the Precipice in documenting all falcon nesting behavior or activities. If additional cliff areas are found to have adult peregrine falcons who are engaged in territorial defense or breeding behavior, the park will likely announce closures for these areas as well.
Research has shown that nesting falcons are particularly vulnerable to human disturbance originating immediately above the nesting area or directed at the nest site. Continued disturbances can lead to chick mortality or complete nest failure, which further slows the recovery of the species in Maine.
In 1991, the first pair of peregrine falcons nested successfully on the east face of Champlain Mountain. A second pair of falcons established a nest site on Beech Cliffs above Echo Lake in 1995, and a third pair of falcons established a nesting territory at Jordan Cliffs in 1996. Mount Desert Island's falcon pairs have become the foundation of Maine's peregrine falcon recovery program with the fledging of over eighty chicks during the last 15 years.
The peregrine falcon was placed on the endangered species list in the early 1970's because pesticides such as DDT coupled with habitat loss and other human disturbances had caused the peregrine population to decline throughout North America and disappear in the northeastern United States before the 1960s. The federal listing protected the remaining birds and their nesting cliff sites in addition to initiating an international captive breeding and reintroduction program. Acadia National Park was selected to be one of the reintroduction field sites in Maine and for the Northeast. The reintroduction program began in 1984 using a method known as hacking. The hacking method places and rears young captive-bred peregrines on suitable cliffs in hope that the cliff and area are “imprinted” upon the young birds and that they return to the area as adults and establish a nesting territory to further the recovery of the species and population in Maine. Jordan Cliff on Penobscot Mountain overlooking Jordan Pond was selected as the hack site and served in this role for three springs beginning in 1984. In 1999, the peregrine falcon was removed from the list of species receiving federal protection under the Federal Endangered Species Act. At that time populations in most recovery regions of the United States had attained or surpassed most of the objectives identified in Regional Recovery Plans developed by states in concert with the Fish and Wildlife Service. These recovered populations will be monitored closely by states and the FWS for approximately the next 12 years to ensure that populations remain stable or increase.
The park will announce the reopening of the closed areas and trails when the park biologist and the State Endangered Species biologist determine that human activities will not disturb the young birds.