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Contact: Bruce Connery, 207-288-8726
Peregrine falcons have again been observed defending nesting territories and engaging in breeding behavior at the Precipice Cliff in Acadia National Park, Superintendent Sheridan Steele announced today. The species is listed as an endangered species under the Maine Endangered Species Act.
In order to protect the nesting birds from inadvertent disturbance or harassment, areas in and around the Precipice Cliff are closed to all visitor and operational activities. The closure at the Precipice includes the popular Precipice and East Face Trails found on the east face of Champlain Mountain. These trails were closed last October because of earthquake damage on the trails and this notice reinforces the trail closures as well as applies the closure to the cliff and immediate area. 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. Trails would normally remain closed until approximately five weeks after chicks take their first flights, or fledge, from their nests. The opening of these closed areas usually is in late July or early in August. This year, however, the trails will remain closed until the trails crew can repair damaged or blocked sections of the trail. 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 park headquarters. If the park biologist determines that the nesting attempt has failed at this site later this spring or early in the summer, the park will cancel the closure and the trails be opened once the necessary repairs have been completed.
Park staff and volunteers have been observing other cliffs in the park in hopes of documenting other falcon nesting behavior or activity, but to date have not seen pairs of adult falcons at any of these sites. If one or more of these sites is determined to have a pair of adult peregrine falcons that 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 Cliff 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 16 years.
The peregrine falcon was placed on the endangered species list in the early 1970s 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. This method places and rears young captive-bred peregrines on suitable cliffs in hopes that the cliff and area is “imprinted” upon the young birds and that they return to the area as adults and establish a breeding population. Jordan Cliffs 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 US 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.