Peregrine falcons nest again on bluffs at Effigy Mounds

Peregrine falcon perched. PHOTO BY U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE
By : 
Lisa Brainard
Journey vs. Destination

There’s a program on the return of peregrine falcons to the Mississippi River bluffs at Effigy Mounds National Monument in northeast Iowa. There WAS a program. It was scheduled to have been held July 6 at the park.

Sorry you missed it. I saw the press release dated July 2 on July 2. That’s typically not enough lead-time for weekly publications to promote it, especially with a Fourth of July holiday thrown in for good measure.

I’m thinking of starting an online blog. Follow it and you’d find out about “last-minute” activities that I’ve discovered. To illustrate lead-time needed for the Bluff Country Reader — columns have a deadline of something like noon on the Wednesday before publication. I’ve been pretty good — patting my own back here — trying to get mine in by Monday or Tuesday. I’m writing this Tuesday, July 3. So, there’s absolutely no way an event on July 6 can be promoted here. Promotional info on many, many events by all types of organizations is not released in enough time to promote them adequately. The take-away? Keep this in mind if you’re in charge of public relations for an event.

All griping aside, information on the peregrines at Effigy Mounds follows, taken from the news release. I hope this presentation is given again this summer. And let’s get to the big news!


“Peregrine falcons have returned to Effigy Mounds!”

In celebration of this historic event Effigy Mounds National Monument was to have hosted a special evening program on Friday, July 6, at the Effigy Mounds National Monument Visitor Center, located at 151 Highway 76, Harpers Ferry, Iowa. Effigy Mounds Natural Resources Manager Rodney Rovang and Amy Ries of the Decorah Raptor Resource Project (RRP) were planning to have discussed the fascinating history and recent discovery of peregrine falcons at Effigy Mounds National Monument.

“On May 18, 2018, William Smith, biologist volunteer with the Raptor Resource Project, spotted peregrine falcons in what appeared to be a nest on the bluffs over the Mississippi River within Effigy Mounds National Monument. This is the first ever recorded discovery of peregrines in the park.

“Effigy Mounds was the site of recovery and reintroduction efforts focused on restoring peregrines to their native habitat. Starting in 1998 and continuing into 1999, nine birds per year for a total of 18 were released into the wild from hacking boxes attached to the cliffs of Effigy Mounds.

“The birds immediately dispersed both up and down river. In 2000, the first documented nest was confirmed in Queens Bluff, Minnesota. (Note from columnist: This location is in or near the Minnesota DNR’s Great River Bluffs State Park.) However, no nests were ever discovered in Effigy Mounds until now.

“Peregrine falcons lived for countless generations along the cliffs of the upper Mississippi River. The bluffs echoed with their shrill cries and the sky was filled with their spectacular aerobatic courtship displays. The peregrine disappeared from the cliffs along the Mississippi River in the 1960s due to the use of the (insecticide) DDT. The last recorded pair to nest in the area disappeared in 1964.

“The reintroduction of peregrines from Effigy Mounds National Monument in 1998 and 1999 has led to their successful re-establishment in their native habitat. And now, once again, they have found a home in the park.”

This is fabulous news! I’m sure it has a lot to do with the late Bob Anderson of RRP. I did stories on the RRP’s placement of hack boxes on bluffs above the Upper Iowa River near Bluffton, Iowa, back when I worked in Decorah. We climbed all over those bluffs. But, for whatever reason, that effort to create nesting didn’t seem to be successful. Later, in the early 2000s, I accompanied him on a drive along the Mississippi bluffs to check for nests. We also checked a peregrine falcon in a hack box atop a grain elevator. That was in McGregor, Iowa, just a few miles south and downstream from Effigy Mounds.

Thanks to Bob Anderson and his fellow RRP enthusiasts, this big moment has occurred. I can’t say enough how great this is! Remember, too, there are bird effigy mounds at the park that might be considered to resemble a falcon with wings spread in flight. Grab your binoculars and head to Effigy Mounds. Contact the park at 563-873-3491 or go to For more on RRP, go to

 Lisa Brainard still enjoys lifelong pursuits of the outdoors, history and travel as able, following a serious accident and stroke in September 2012. She’s written this column weekly for about 15 years.