Tettegouche State Park in Silver Bay is marking 30 years since the discovery of a peregrine falcon nest on the Palisade Head cliff - and the remarkable recovery of a bird that was virtually extinct in the continental U.S. by the early 1970s.
Tettegouche interpretive naturalist Kurt Mead organized an art show June 1 in the visitor center that showcased paintings, carved-block printing and other works inspired by the birds and the dramatic cliffs where they make their homes. The Midwest Peregrine Society also brought a juvenile peregrine.
In the 1960s, peregrines were nearly wiped out in the wild due to widespread use of the insecticide DDT. The chemical caused peregrines, bald eagles and other birds' eggs to have thin, fragile shells. DDT was banned in 1972 and when peregrine falcons were listed as endangered in 1973, there were no nesting pairs in Minnesota.
In the years after the ban on DDT, captive peregrines were bred and the resulting young were reared on cliffs like the ones in Tettegouche along Lake Superior. Ecologists and others would rappel down cliffs to the young birds' nests to hand-feed them.
In the summer of 1988, the first nesting pair of peregrines were found just behind where the visitor center is today. The birds were removed from the endangered list in 1999. Today, there are 25 pairs of nesting peregrines on the North Shore alone.
"There is no other species that has made that type of recovery in that short of a time period," said Jackie Fallon, Minnesota state coordinator for the Midwest Peregrine Society. "Basically, we went from listed as endangered to recovery in 26 years."
Fallon said the biggest factor in the recovery of the birds was the banning of DDT, which had wiped out peregrines east of the Mississippi River, but Minnesota state parks played a role, too.
"We wouldn't survive without the habitat and that's what the state parks provide," Fallon said.
Peregrine events at Tettegouche
- 9 a.m. to noon Saturday - "Falcons and Other Birds: A Photography Workshop." Wildlife photographer Ryan Pennesi will guide participants in photographing several species of captive falcons as well as wild songbirds birds of the park. There is no fee, but participants should register ahead of time by calling the park at (218) 353-8800.
- 1-3 p.m. Saturday - "Thirty Years of Peregrines." Guest speakers and pioneers in the peregrine recovery efforts will talk about peregrines' past, present and future.