Updated: May 11, 2013 10:23PM
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The peregrine falcon, once all but extinct in the Midwest, is poised to come off Indiana’s endangered species list this year after what wildlife officials call a “phenomenally successful” recovery.
Nearly 300 pairs are living in the upper Midwest today, about 50 years after use of the pesticide DDT to kill mosquitoes and other pests eradicated the species east of the Mississippi River.
Wildlife experts attribute the birds’ comeback to efforts to reintroduce the birds, a ban on DDT and their own adaptability.
John Castrale, a biologist with the Department of Natural Resources, told The Indianapolis Star the birds have traded traditional nesting sites in cliffs and bluffs along riverbanks for skyscrapers. That’s led to more nesting sites throughout the state in cities like Indianapolis and South Bend.
“They’ve adapted to use these artificial sites, artificial cliffs,” he said. “That’s really made a difference. They’re really taking advantage of it.”
That would have been hard to foresee in 1970, when peregrine falcons were listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Wildlife officials began trying that decade to restore peregrine populations by releasing young birds born in captivity.
In 1991, 15 young birds were released in Indianapolis. Similar releases occurred in Fort Wayne, South Bend and Evansville over the next three years as a total of 60 falcons were released across Indiana.
The falcon was removed from the federal Endangered Species List in 1999. Castrale said Indiana officials waited to remove the birds from the state list until they maintained 16 nesting territories for at least three years.
Public comments on removing the falcon from the state list will be accepted by the Indiana Natural Resources Commission until June 13. The panel will make an official decision at its July 16 meeting.