This IBA is made up of 9 discrete locations and a .25 mile radius around each one. Each location is a cliff used as a nesting sites by Peregrine Falcons. The IBA does not include the area between the sites. While the sites are geographically separate, and involve different landowners/managers their combined importance to this species, along with their common conservation and monitoring needs argues for regarding them as one, unique IBA. These site locations are current as of summer 2003 when 10 sites were known to exist. Due to landowner concerns only 9 sites are included in this IBA.
Peregrine Falcons have specific and limited nest site choices. Historically, cliff sites overlooking or very near water have been chosen as nest sites. These cliffs are repeatedly returned to and used, with records in England showing occupancy for hundreds of years. Peregrines will occasionally use tree nests (built by other birds) and regularly use ledges and boxes on bridges, tall buildings, and smokestacks. There are 28 human-built nest sites in Minnesota.
The north shore cliffs of Lake Superior had been natural nesting sites for Peregrine Falcons long before the extirpation of the bird from Minnesota in the 1950s. Peregrines nested along the Lake Superior shoreline north into Canada and also along the south shore in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. As a result of the reintroduction of the species into Minnesota and Manitoba, peregrines began nesting along the north shore in 1988. Since then the population along the north shore has expanded, mirroring the increase seen in the rest of the region.
These sites represent 70% (9/13) of the natural Peregrine Falcon nest sites recorded in Minnesota through 2003. Although the regional population continues to grow, peregrine biology and cliff site availability dictates that we are nearing the species carrying capacity. Human-built sites, which represent the majority of sites in Minnesota, are not eligible for IBA designation, and can be lost at anytime their owners decide. Barring disturbance, or other calamity, peregrine falcons can be expected to continue nesting on north shore cliffs for the foreseeable future. Thus, the value and need for an IBA designation recognizing these sites.
2004 marked the 5th year anniversary of the delisting of the Peregrine Falcon from the endangered species list. This is perhaps one of the most valuable environmental success stories of recent time. The success of the peregrine recovery is directly tied to human intervention at a grassroots level. This intervention includes individual bird watchers and falconers that first observed problems with nesting peregrines in the 1950s to organizations that took a political stand to outlaw the use of DDT in the United States in the 1970s and culminating with decades long effort to reintroduce and manage to recovery a new population of birds.
Because of the dedication and commitment of those who spearheaded the original introduction of the peregrine falcon, the current Midwest population may be one of the best-studied raptor populations in the world. Since the original introduction in 1982 scores of volunteers and scientists have continuously monitored nest site success and occupancy, and banded the young each year. It is important to note that this work can at these sites continue indefinitely. These native nesting sites are significant not only to the peregrine falcon population but to human populations that observe them.
One of the most significant potential threats to peregrines nesting along the north shore is tourism. Continued improvement of the roads of the north shore have lead to increased tourism which began as early as the 1910?s but has grown most significantly since the second world war. Tourism continues to be a leading industry in Duluth and all along the north shore. Although this continued growth of tourism can be a benefit to the human species it is almost always associated with the detriment of native animal populations. The peregrine falcon along the north shore has done well to keep itself far from the tourists, but as the human population continues to grow and local tourist books list the peregrine nest sites as tourist attractions, these valuable land areas may become exploited.
Specific activities that take place at these sites need to be considered and accounted for in future conservation plans. Rock climbing in particular can be a serious disturbance to nesting peregrines. Predation by Great Horned Owls and raccoons has been documented at cliff sites along the Mississippi River and pose a potential threat to individual nesters.
It is part of The Raptor Centers goal to continue to provide outstanding educational programs that compel participants to protect raptors and the environment. As a part of our commitment to this Important Bird Area The Raptor Center will look to continue providing education programs in the north shore area to continue to inspire residents and tourists to respect and protect our native raptors and their habitats.