The volcanic rock formations that delight hikers and climbers at Pinnacles National Park also provide important habitat for cliff nesting birds, so much so that in 1939 the Balconies Cliffs were set aside as a sanctuary for their protection. By the early 1960s DDT poisoning had extirpated peregrine falcons from the region, leaving prairie falcons as the only large falcon species breeding in the park. Soon rock climbing began to rise in popularity, increasing the threat of human disturbance to nesting prairie falcons. A spirit of cooperation, however, is helping to decrease this threat.
Park managers and the climbing community recognized that they share a common goal: to allow for public enjoyment while simultaneously protecting the park for future generations. This realization spawned the Prairie and Peregrine Falcon Monitoring Program, in which breeding raptors are monitored each year in order to open unoccupied areas to climbers and off-trail hikers.
Park employees, interns, and volunteers gather data that allow us to detect trends in raptor populations, alerting us to potential declines so that we may take action before it is too late. Climbers and hikers have been very cooperative in avoiding sensitive areas, and in 2005 peregrine falcons returned to join the prairie falcons, red-tailed hawks, golden eagles, great-horned owls, cliff swallows, California condors, and other bird species that nest on the Pinnacles cliffs.
Last updated: June 9, 2021