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Threatened & Endangered Birds

Yellowstone has relatively few species that are in danger of extinction and thus afforded protection by the Endangered Species Act. Fortunately there are no endangered plants in the park, although there are several endemic species (found only here) and other rarities worthy of special concern. Three bird species found in the park are listed as threatened or endangered as of May 1999. (Two mammals are currently listed and a third is soon to be; see Wolves, Grizzly Bears, and Lynx.) Protection and recovery of these rare and beautiful species is a high priority for Yellowstone National Park.

Peregrine Falcons (Falco peregrinus)

1Peregrine falcons reside in Yellowstone from April through October, nesting on large cliffs that overlook rivers or valleys where they prey on songbirds and waterfowl. These falcons can winter as far south as South America but Yellowstone peregrines are believed to winter in Mexico; none spend the winter here. Peregrines are expert hunters, and have been clocked at speeds exceeding 200 mph as they swoop after prey. Because of their high-speed movements, they may be difficult to distinguish from other falcons, such as prairie falcons, which also live in Yellowstone. Distinction may be made by identifying the blue-grey body, black helmet feature, and the black wedge below the eye. The prairie falcon, by contrast, is a lighter, warmer brown-bellied bird with a light breast and has black "armpits" under its wings.

Widespread use of pesticides contributed significantly to the decline of peregrine populations until the 1970s. The recognition and protection of the peregrine falcon as an endangered species, combined with private captive breeding and subsequent wild restoration efforts such as those undertaken by the Peregrine Fund, have resulted in the gradual increase of this bird in the wild. The peregrine is currently "ecologically recovered" in Yellowstone.

Young peregrines were reintroduced from 1984 through 1988, in hopes that they would reoccupy historic nesting sites in the park. All suitable habitat quickly appeared to be occupied; known peregrine nests, or eyries, increased from 1 in 1984 to 13 in 1998. 22 young falcons fledged from nests in 1998. Peregrines may be "downlisted" to threatened as their populations increase. For this endangered species, recovery is well underway. The peregrine falcon is "ecologically recovered" in Yellowstone and throughout much of its range. It is expected to be delisted (taken off the list) in the near future.



"The Wildlife of Yellowstone"
- 94 Minutes -

The Wildlife of Yellowstone DVD presents to you the most popular and prominent wildlife inhabiting Yellowstone National Park. This dvd, taped in digital format, has the highest quality scenes of grizzlies, black bears, moose, wolves, otters, owls, fox and much more including their young. Inside this dvd you will find

· 94 Minutes on the Wildlife of Yellowstone.
· Three Chapters : Large Mammals, Small Mammals and Birds
· Narrated by Yellowstone Tour Owner and Specialist - Ken Sinay
· Where, When and How to Spot the Wildlife of Yellowstone

More Info or Order Online


Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

The bald eagle, our national symbol, resides in Yellowstone throughout the year, nesting in large trees close to water. Adult birds are easily recognized by their dark bodies, white head and tail feathers; their wing span may reach up to 7 feet depending on the individual. During severe winters, some pairs move to lower elevations where food is more available. On the wintering areas, resident eagles are joined by migrant bald and golden eagles. Bald eagles are often seen around Yellowstone Lake, where they prey on fish in the summer. They also commonly scavenge the carcasses of animals such as elk and bison that die in late fall to early spring. This is especially apparent on the Northern Range of the park.

A Bald Eagle Management Plan objective for the greater Yellowstone ecosystem is to have 62 breeding pairs produce an average of 53 young each year. In 1998, 15 eaglets fledged from 22 active nests in the park. We are currently surpassing our Bald Eagle Management Plan objectives.

In July 1995, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service reviewed the status of the bald eagle and downlisted it from endangered to threatened in four of the five regions in the United States in which it is found. Even if removed from the endangered species list, eagles and their habitat will be monitored and protected in Yellowstone and elsewhere, as specified in the Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.


Whooping Cranes (Grus americana)

Whooping cranes are one of the most endangered birds in North America. Standing more than 4 feet tall on their long, slender legs, the white birds with red/black facial markings and black wing tips are named for their unique whooping call. Historical accounts show very few records in western Wyoming and evidence of whooping cranes historically nesting in the park is sketchy at best. When visiting the park, one should not confuse the white whooping cranes with the duller, greyer, rusty sandhill crane. Sandhill cranes frequent the small meadows of the park.

One whooping crane currently resides in the park in the summer, a remnant of a failed experiment conducted in the 1980s and early 1990s. That effort attempted to restore "whoopers" to the Rocky Mountain flyway by taking eggs from the nests of whooping cranes in Wood Buffalo National Park in northern Canada transporting and placing them with "foster parent" sandhill cranes nesting at Gray's Lake National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Idaho. These cranes moved south each winter, along with the sandhills, primarily to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. But after many years, the Gray's Lake whooping cranes declined in numbers and those that did survive and mature failed to successfully pair bond and produce young. As of 1999, only 2 Gray's Lake whooping cranes remain in the Greater Yellowstone.

On May 1, 1998, two whooping cranes were released in Yellowstone National Park at the request of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. These birds were part of an experiment to learn how to establish a new migratory flock of whooping cranes in North America. In 1997, four cranes were raised at the Patuxent National Wildlife Research Center in Maryland. An Idaho rancher working with the whooping crane recovery coordinator took the birds to his ranch and trained them to follow his ultralight plane. In the autumn of 1997, he led the birds to their winter home in New Mexico.

Two cranes trained to follow the ultralight were lost to predators at the refuge, but two other 'ultralight' birds began their spring migration from New Mexico on March 5, following the lead of many thousands of sandhill cranes departing Bosque del Apache. The birds traveled to the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado, where more than 20,000 sandhill cranes gather for about a month to gain energy reserves for the rest of their migration. After leaving the valley on April 11, 1998, both whoopers were located in poor crane habitat where they faced threats from nearby powerlines and fences. Collisions with powerlines are the single highest source of mortality for fledged whooping cranes. For this reason, the whoopers were recaptured and released in the safer environment at Yellowstone, where it was hoped the birds would summer prior to a successful autumn migration. Where these birds end up in 1999 in the Greater Yellowstone is anyone's guess.

The only wild nesting population of whooping cranes actually summers in Alberta and the Northwest Territories. These cranes migrate across the Great Plains between Canada and the Texas coast. In recent years the flock has grown to about 250 individual whooping cranes in the wild; more than 100 other birds live in captivity. Biologists are now experimenting with re-establishing a flock in Florida



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