Word Power | The Rescue of the Peregrine Falcon

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Learn about The Rescue of the Peregrine Falcon and ten new words you can add to your vocabulary bank in this new Word Power Episode from English Plus Podcast.

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The Rescue of the Peregrine Falcon

Few sights are as gratifying to American environmentalists as that of a peregrine falcon nesting high on a rocky cliff. From the 1940s until the early 1990s, the very existence of this beautiful bird of prey in North America was threatened.

Noted for their speed and skill in flight, peregrine falcons are small to medium-sized hawks. The diet of young peregrines consists mainly of butterflies and dragonflies. Adults gorge themselves on rodents or small birds that they often capture in flight with a spectacular show of skill, strength, and speed. Peregrines average about 50 miles per hour in normal, level flight. However, scientists believe that when peregrines swoop toward their prey, they can attain speeds of 200 to 300 miles per hour.

Peregrines tend to reside in treeless tundra regions such as the Arctic areas of Alaska and Canada. They construct hidden nests in areas that are the natural habitats of birds, mice, lemmings, and other small rodents. In the late 1940s North American peregrines began to disappear at a rapid and unaccountable pace. By the early 1970s the decline was widespread. Eventually, scientists determined what had happened.

Up until 1972 Americans refused to heed warnings about the effect on the food chain and used DDT and other pesticides to control insect populations. When fish, birds, and small rodents eat insects or grain treated with pesticides, they take in the toxins from the pesticides. Creatures that feed on these animals eat the poisons that have accumulated in the animals’ bodies. Since peregrines eat so many birds and rodents, they were exposed to massive amounts of poison. The poisons affected the eggs that the falcons laid. The eggshells were so weak that they broke easily. Most eggs that did survive never hatched. The falcons that did hatch were too few in number to continue the population.

In the early 1970s environmentalists took action. The American and Arctic peregrine was placed on a list of endangered species. In 1972 laws were passed banning most uses of DDT. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service, along with other environmental agencies, established a recovery program that reintroduced peregrines into the wild. Today thousands of peregrine pairs nest throughout Arctic North America and Alaska.




If you are gratify(ied) by something, it gives you pleasure or satisfaction.

please, delight, satisfy, thrill

If you gratify your own or another person’s desire, you do what is necessary to please yourself or them.


If you gorge on something or gorge yourself on it, you eat lots of it in a very greedy way.

overeat, bolt, devour, gobble

A gorge is a deep, narrow valley with very steep sides, usually where a river passes through mountains or an area of hard rock.


If you attain something, you gain it or achieve it, often after a lot of effort.

reach, achieve, realize, acquire

If you attain a particular state or condition, you may reach it as a result of natural development or work hard to attain this state.


The habitat of an animal or plant is the natural environment in which it normally lives or grows.

home, environment, surroundings, element

the environment in which an animal or plant normally lives or grows


Something that is unaccountable does not seem to have any sensible explanation.

inexplicable, mysterious, baffling, odd

If you describe a person or organization as unaccountable, you are critical of them because they are not responsible to anyone for their actions, or do not feel they have to explain their actions to anyone.


If you heed someone’s advice or warning, you pay attention to it and do what they suggest.

pay attention to, listen to, take notice of, follow

If you take heed of what someone says or if you pay heed to them, you pay attention to them and consider carefully what they say.


Pesticides are chemicals which farmers put on their crops to kill harmful insects.

a chemical used for killing pests, esp. insects and rodents

any chemical used for killing insects, weeds, etc.


A toxin is any poisonous substance produced by bacteria, animals, or plants.

poison, venom

any of various poisonous compounds produced by some microorganisms and causing certain diseases


When you accumulate things or when they accumulate, they collect or are gathered over a period of time.

build up, increase, grow, be stored

to gather or become gathered together in an increasing quantity; amass; collect


To ban something means to state officially that it must not be done, shown, or used.

prohibit, black, bar, block

A ban is an official ruling that something must not be done, shown, or used.

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