Peregrine Falcons live life on the edge. Cliff dwellers by nature, they nest on skyscraper ledges, where they raise their young and teach them to fly. Breeding pairs mate for life and raise a family in the same spot year after year.
To hunt for other birds, Peregrines close their wings and take a seemingly suicidal plunge towards their airborne prey. These raptors can reach speeds of more than 200 mph (322 km/h) during a dive, which makes them the fastest animals alive! After delivering a knockout punch, they pluck their stunned meal from the sky and fly to a nearby perch to eat.
By the 1960s, the use of DDT had all but wiped out the U.S. Peregrine population. Eggs had become so weakened that the weight of nesting parents crushed the shells. In 1972, the government banned the insecticide, and a year later placed the bird on the Federal Endangered and Threatened Species List. In 2015 Peregrine Falcon was removed from the Illinois endangered species list.
By 1988, populations had risen so much that recovery programs shifted from releasing birds to monitoring them. Today, The Field Museum's Peregrine Program supervises Illinois pairs, tags chicks, and performs many other critical tasks that ensure a healthy population.