PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — Breeding peregrine falcons have been found in South Dakota for the first time in 50 years.

The Game, Fish and Parks Department confirmed that two pairs of peregrines successfully nested in the Black Hills earlier this year, the Capital Journal (http://bit.ly/2tiXNXZ ) reported. A third pair was spotted but didn't appear to have a nest.

American peregrine falcons were removed from the federal endangered species list in 1999 but are still listed as endangered in South Dakota, where there's limited habitat.

The birds were found in part because of the department's effort to establish delisting criteria for all the species on the state's threatened or endangered-species list. The effort led the department to hire retired Wyoming biologist Bob Oakleaf, who specializes in peregrine falcons, to help identify potential nest sites.

The search included an aerial survey of the Black Hills to identify which cliffs peregrines may use, as well as a ground survey to see if any birds were already there.

"We basically sat in lawn chairs and watched," said Casey Heimerl, a wildlife biologist with the department.

The criteria are expected to be finalized over the next few months. They will require a certain number of nesting pairs over a certain number of years. Currently the falcons can only be removed from the list if the department finds five nesting pairs for five consecutive years, but Heimerl said those numbers may change as new data is evaluated.


Information from: Pierre Capital Journal, http://www.capjournal.com