Students, faculty, and staff members come and go from Pitt’s Cathedral of Learning. But, since 2002, the Cathedral has been the permanent home for pairs of Peregrine falcons—the fastest animals on Earth, capable of reaching 200-plus mph during their characteristic steep dives after prey.
Peregrine falcons were almost eliminated from the eastern United States due to the introduction of pesticides, and were listed as endangered in the 1970s. Since then, the birds have returned and prospered thanks to legal protections, restrictions on the use of DDT, and reintroduction efforts.
The Cathedral’s Peregrines produce chicks every year. It’s an amazing sight each spring as adult falcons teach their chicks to fly and hunt, especially when the chicks launch themselves off the Cathedral for their first training flights. The Cathedral is an ideal site for falcon breeding because it’s a tall building with restricted site access and few predators.