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Peregrine falcon: A conservation success story

Peregrine falcon - Credit: Gordon Court

The peregrine falcon—the fastest bird in the world—is no longer a species at risk. It is a conservation success story.                            

Canada’s peregrine falcons were first listed as Endangered in 1978 after populations crashed from DDT poisoning. The pesticide DDT was widely used at the time, building up through the food chain and reducing the female falcon’s ability to lay healthy eggs.

The peregrine falcon became an important symbol of the environmental movement. Some countries banned the use of DDT and captive breeding programs helped to reintroduce the falcons across southern Canada. The falcons proved to be adaptable to new habitats, which also helped their recovery.

Since the 1970s, peregrine falcon populations in Canada have rebounded thanks to these conservation efforts. Over time, national assessments by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) determined the status of the species was improving. The peregrine falcon was assessed as not at risk in 2017 and removed entirely from the Species at Risk Act list in 2023.

At the territorial level, peregrine falcon populations have increased as well. Over 20 years, NWT surveys found a 58 per cent increase in the number of occupied sites. In 2022, the NWT Species at Risk Committee assessed the biological status of peregrine falcon using Indigenous, community and scientific knowledge and determined that it is not at risk in the NWT. Although some threats remain, the level of contaminants in the birds is low enough that it is no longer affecting reproduction in the overall population, and numbers are stable.

Photo: Gordon Court

“Despite multiple threats, the species shows clear signs of resilience and adaptability.” 

                            - NWT Species at Risk Committee

While it is no longer a species at risk, the peregrine falcon is still protected in other ways. It is protected from international trade in live birds or bird parts by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Peregrine falcons, their nests and their eggs also remain protected under the NWT Wildlife Act.

The story of these resilient birds shows that our species at risk can recover when threats are stopped or reduced, and provides an important reminder that strong and coordinated action can change the fate of a species.

Recommendations for peregrine falcon

Issued by the NWT Species at Risk Committee in its assessment and status report – May 2022

  • Improve monitoring of raptors, their habitat and their prey species in the NWT.
  • Prioritize Indigenous and community knowledge research on birds including raptors, their prey species, their habitat and their ecosystem.
  • Research ecosystem level impacts of climate change on raptors and other species including pests, pathogens and parasites.
  • Canada and the NWT must uphold and, if possible, exceed international climate change agreements including reducing greenhouse gas emissions at the local level. Climate change in the NWT must be addressed by implementing the 2030 NWT Climate Change Strategic Framework and Action Plan.