TALLULAH FALLS — For the first time in nearly 80 years, a peregrine falcon nest in a natural setting has been spotted in Georgia.
Department of Natural Resources staff confirmed the nest and two chicks at Tallulah Gorge State Park last month. The only other known peregrine nests in the state are atop office buildings in Atlanta.
Climbers at the northeast Georgia state park reported an agitated bird diving at them as they explored the gorge’s rocky walls. Upon inspection, DNR officials discovered the nest and at least two chicks. To protect the world’s fastest bird, rock climbing has been temporarily suspended while the chicks grow.
“We are thrilled to discover this amazing bird inside Tallulah Gorge,” said Park Manager Danny Tatum. “Peregrines themselves are a rare sighting, but discovering a natural nest in the park makes it even more exciting. We’d like to thank the rock climbers for bringing this to our attention and for understanding the importance of protecting the area until the chicks fledge.”
Peregrine falcons practically disappeared from the eastern United States a few decades ago, primarily because of the effects of the pesticide DDT. Built for speed, they can reach 200 mph while hunting prey. Nest sites, called eyries, are normally located on cliff ledges where the young chicks are safe from predators. Georgia’s last known eyrie outside Atlanta was found in 1936 at Cloudland Canyon State Park in northwest Georgia.
Biologists and birders are exceptionally excited about this discovery because of its rarity. Nathan Klaus, a DNR senior wildlife biologist, said the find is a credit to the work of scientists and others who, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, released peregrines in north Georgia and have continued to monitor nests in Atlanta — all with the goal of restoring falcons to the wild.
“So, here we are 20 years later, and we finally have our first nesting peregrines in the mountains,” Klaus said.
Tallulah Gorge State Park visitors are welcome to bring binoculars to the park’s overlooks to view the nest. Guests are encouraged to stop at the Interpretive Center first to get directions and viewing tips. The park is located off Highway 441 south of Clayton. Parking is $5 and camping is available. Nearby Black Rock Mountain State Park also has camping and cabins. To learn more, visit GeorgiaStateParks.org or call 706-754-7981.
Georgians can help conserve peregrine falcons and other nongame wildlife through buying or renewing a bald-eagle or ruby-throated-hummingbird license plate. Wildlife tags support DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section, which depends primarily on fundraisers, grants and direct donations.