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Falcons under new toxic threat

May 9, 2008 | 12:40 pm


California's peregrine falcons, once driven to the edge of extinction by the pesticide DDT, now are contaminated with record-high levels of other toxic chemicals that may threaten them again, The Times' Marla Cone reports:

State scientists have found that peregrines in Long Beach, Los Angeles and San Francisco contain the highest levels of flame retardants found in any living organism worldwide.

Scientists said the peregrines, the fastest and most agile birds, are being contaminated with the industrial chemicals from eating urban pigeons that scavenge on city streets.

A half-century ago, peregrines, bald eagles and brown pelicans were nearly wiped out by DDT, an insecticide that weakened their egg shells and caused nearly complete reproductive failure.

The recovery of the peregrine, known as the bird of kings because of its prized role in falconry, has long been hailed as one of the nation's greatest ecological success stories.

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Kim Hughes / Associated Press

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