Peregrine Falcons of Mount Diablo
Peregrine Falcons live year-round on Mount Diablo. They are most active during the nesting season, late winter through early summer, with courting, mating, incubation, and the first flights of the young birds. One place to look for them is in Pine Canyon, a largely intact “little world” of bare cliffs, chaparral, and woodlands, where all park visitors can watch this dynamic apex predator as it goes about the business of normal life.
Please note the nesting cliffs in Pine Canyon are closed to visitors from February 1st through July 31st every year to protect the birds.
About the Peregrines
Peregrine falcons are the fastest animals on earth. They can dive at upwards of 200 miles per hour to capture smaller birds, their main prey. The pesticide DDT, introduced in the 1940’s, nearly wiped out the species, however. By 1950, they were gone from Mount Diablo, and by 1970, only two nesting pairs could be found in the whole state of California. Their restoration nationwide, including on and around Mount Diablo, began three decades ago with bold biologists and determined volunteers. Now the falcons nest in the high cliffs of the mountain every year, and a group of Mount Diablo volunteers still keeps track of them.
In those same decades, the beauty of the mountain has combined with an ever-booming population in the East Bay to create a new problem: crowds of people in the park. People and Peregrines both like cliffs, but Peregrines are highly territorial and need privacy to nest successfully. If they feel uneasy, they may become too distracted to lay eggs, incubate, or feed their young. Sometimes, they abandon the nest altogether.
One place to see Peregrines much of the year, providing you have patience, is in Pine Canyon, on the state park’s west side. The nesting cliffs themselves, just one mile in from the trailhead, are closed to all park visitors February 1st-July 31st every year, but you can still watch the action. A good place is via Diablo Foothills Regional Park, which is the state park’s immediate neighbor. The falcons live year-round in and around this scenic canyon, and begin courting and nesting in February and March. They’re most active in the spring and early summer when they put all their effort into mating, nesting, and raising their young, a noisy process. The annual nesting closure zone supports that effort. Fortunately, getting good views of the Peregrines does not require climbing the cliffs.
About the Peregrine Team in Pine Canyon
From February through July of every year, Pine Canyon is also where you’ll find members of the Peregrine Team, a natural history education group. P-Teamers talk to hundreds of hikers, bikers, and climbers every season to tell them about the annual closure zone in the cliffs, the falcons, and this beautiful, largely intact “little world” of bare cliffs, chaparral, and oak woodlands.
P-Teamers also help people comprehend the mountain as a critical wildlife corridor. In Pine Canyon, everyone can watch an apex predator going about its daily life. This is not a common occurrence with other apex predators. Mountain lions also live in the area, for instance, but are highly secretive and rarely seen by visitors, let alone observed by humans as they go about the most critical business of their lives.
For more information, contact Staci Hobbet, Peregrine Team Lead, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Peregrine in flight - Scott Hein
A Peregrine on watch - Wallace De Young
Team Training Day - Dereck Love