TALLULAH FALLS — A pair of peregrine falcons has built a nest and appears to be raising chicks again this year at Tallulah Gorge State Park.
Last year was the first time in nearly 75 years that a peregrine nest in a natural setting had been spotted in Georgia.
Park officials are welcoming hikers to observe the raptors from overlooks; however, rock climbing has been suspended while the chicks, which are called eyasses, grow and fledge.
“We are encouraged that they’ve returned to Tallulah Gorge for a second year,” park manager Danny Tatum said. “It appears that the nest is behind a rock and just out of sight. But we’ve seen them bringing food back to the nest, so we assume the chicks have hatched.”
Peregrine falcons practically disappeared from the eastern United States a few decades ago. Nest sites, called eyries, are normally on cliff ledges. Yet in urban areas, peregrines have adapted to nesting on buildings, bridges and other structures. Georgia’s last known wild eyrie was found in 1942 in a gorge — likely in the area now known as Cloudland Canyon State Park — in the state’s northwest corner.
Bob Sargent, a program manager with the Department of Natural Resources’ Nongame Conservation Section, said many people have worked to bring the species back from the brink of extinction.
“Biologists in Georgia have long believed the nesting habitat and food resources at this park were tailor-made for peregrine falcons, so it is not a surprise this is where the first natural-setting nest was discovered in the state after a 75-year absence,” Sargent said.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, DNR and conservation partners released peregrines in North Georgia, including Tallulah Gorge, and in Atlanta. The first successful nest recorded as a result of these efforts was on the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Atlanta in 1996.
Tallulah Gorge visitors are welcome to bring binoculars to overlook 9 to view the nest. An information box is stationed at the overlook; however, guests are encouraged to stop at the Interpretive Center to get directions. The park is off Highway 441, south of Clayton. Parking is $5 and camping is available. To learn more, visit GeorgiaStateParks.org or call 706-754-7981.