From KY Dept. of Fish and Wildlife Resources
During the era of human habitation in Kentucky when the only smoke emitted
along the banks of the Ohio River came from the cooking fires of the
Shawnee, peregrine falcons nested along its banks. During the 20th century,
habitat destruction and the widespread use of pesticides, mainly DDT,
caused peregrine falcon numbers to plummet. By the late 1940s, Kentucky
lost the last nesting peregrine falcons. By the 1970s, peregrine falcons no
longer nested in the eastern United States.
In 2003, peregrine falcons again nest along the Ohio River, but they shun
the trees and cliffs they once used as natural nesting sites and in their
place use the human built bridges and power plants. Power plants and
bridges resemble the cliff site habitat peregrines once used to raise their
We have two nesting pairs in Trimble County, said Shawchyi Vorisek, raptor
research biologist with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife
One is at the LG&E plant in Bedford. The other pair lives on the Hwy. 421
bridge between Milton, Kentucky and Madison, Indiana. The nest is in an
area where we can’t observe them.
Vorisek said the pair of young peregrine falcons at the LG&E plant fledged
the first week of June.
This year the female laid three eggs, but one egg never hatched, she said.
The other two eggs hatched and so far they’ve been successful. This is the
most successful she’s been. What is interesting is the female that was
around before was displaced by this female. We were a little upset because
this female is not as successful at reproducing as the female she
displaced, but the news this year is good nonetheless.
Vorisek said there is a nesting pair at the Kentucky Utilities (KU) power
plant at Ghent, Kentucky. KU plants have served as hacking sites for
reintroducing peregrines back to the wild.
This nesting pair had four young this year, she said. All four fledged, but
two died soon after. One flew into lattice-type structures and the other
flew into a building. The other two relocated.
Mortality is high on young peregrines. The biggest natural predator on
young peregrine falcons is the great horned owl, but most deaths are
associated with accidents, disease or bad weather. Only about 30 percent of
young peregrines survive to adulthood.
There are other pairs of nesting peregrine falcons in Kentucky, according
We’ve got a nesting pair in Louisville between the Big Four and the JFK
bridge, she said. We also have a pair in Greenup County at the Ironton
Bridge between Russell, Kentucky and Ironton, Ohio.
After fledging, peregrines disperse. We’ve had birds fledge that end up in
Indiana or Illinois, Vorisek said. One of our birds came from Canada.
Peregrine falcons feed mainly on other birds and take them in mid-air. They
are capable of attaining speeds of 200 miles per hour in a vertical dive
making them the fastest animal on Earth.
Kentuckians will have a much better chance in the future to witness the
awe-inspiring dive of a peregrine falcon, now that nesting activity once
again seems to be back on track in the Commonwealth.