HANNIBAL, Mo. (AP) -- The inspection of a Mississippi River bridge in northeast Missouri is on hold for a few months after the discovery of the nest of a bird listed by the state as endangered.
Inspection of the Mark Twain Memorial Bridge at Hannibal was scheduled to begin April 8 until a peregrine falcon nest was found on the structure.
A local man, David Johnson, had photographed falcons near the bridge and believed there might be a nest, the Hannibal Courier-Post reported . He contacted the Missouri Department of Transportation, which reached out to Jeff Meshach of the World Bird Sanctuary in St. Louis.
Johnson provided photos confirming the discovery, and MoDOT, at Meshach's urging, postponed its every-other-year inspection until Aug. 1, when the falcons will likely be out of their nest.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the American peregrine falcon from the list of endangered and threatened species in 1999, but the birds are still considered endangered in the state of Missouri.
Meshach said falcons are very territorial during nesting season and could pose a threat to anyone working under the bridge. He praised MoDOT for choosing not to disrupt the nesting falcons.
The Fish and Wildlife Service said peregrine falcons are typically 15 inches to 21 inches long with a wingspan of about 40 inches. Meshach said falcons are the fastest creatures on earth -- they've been clocked at speeds of 261 mph.
They live mostly along river valleys, mountain ranges and coastlines. While their preferred nesting spot is a depression in gravel on a cliff ledge, many nest on man-made structures, including bridges, tall towers and skyscraper ledges that mimic their natural sites.
The American and Arctic peregrine falcon subspecies were listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1969. Restrictions on the use of the pesticide DDT and recovery efforts helped them rebound, and the American peregrine falcon was removed from the list of endangered and threatened species in 1999.
MoDOT spokeswoman Marisa Ellison said it is not uncommon for work to be disrupted because of discoveries of wildlife, though the finds are typically wasps, hornets or bats, not falcons.