The peregrine falcon is the fastest animal on Earth, reaching speeds up to 200 mph when in a dive for prey.

This summer, they'll be speeding through the skies of downtown Rapid City.

Fortunately, the only thing humans is getting hit getting hit by droppings, not the claws of this sleek predator. 

In an ongoing effort to reintroduce to the Black Hills a bird once thought to be extinct, four youngsters were released Saturday on top of the Black Hills Power Building downtown.

That makes a total of 44 birds released by Birds of Prey Northwest in collaboration with South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks since 2010 when the program began.

The birds will migrate to Central or South America for two to three years and then hopefully make their way back to the Rapid City area to find mates and build nests, said Janie Fink, a raptor biologist with Birds of Prey Northwest.

Fink said they hope to see some of their birds begin to come back this year for the first time. 

The nearly $100,000 project funded by GF&P buys babies from certified captive breeders of peregrine falcons to raise and release, Fink said Saturday.

The four released Saturday were about 40 days old.

Fink said the birds, which have not nested in South Dakota since the 1950s, are an important part of the local ecology but were severely affected by the use of pesticides with DDT, illegal hunting and the extinction of their favorite food, the carrier pigeon.

She said it is the duty of humans to help the birds.

"We humans wiped them out. We should restore them," Fink said.

Contact Jennifer Naylor Gesick at 394-8415 or jennifer.naylorgesick@rapidcityjournal.com.

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