Peregrine Falcon by Bill Harris.

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)

Fun Fact

Peregrine Falcons have found a smart solution to humans taking over their habitats. They have adapted well to urban environments because skyscrapers look like cliffs and the pigeons provide a ready source of food. Next time you are in New York City, look up, you just might see a Peregrine Falcon nesting on a building!

Etymology

Peregrine and peregrinus are Latin for "wandering" due to their long-distance migrations.

Conservation status

IUCN Least Concern: Peregrines were once on the endangered species list. The pesticide DDT caused very fragile eggs and often the embryo did not survive. Thanks to the banning of DDT and the efforts of programs like the Peregrine Fund, these birds are no longer at risk of extinction.

Lifespan

7-15 years in the wild around 20 years in captivity.

Idenitification

Exact patterning varies with age and location, but all maintain a striated steel colored appearance. A typical appearance would be a blue-gray color with horizontal streaks on adults. Colorings range from dark brown to light grey to dark gray. Age differences include white-grey feet in juveniles that yellow as they mature. Peregrines are one of the largest falcons in North America and are noted for their long, pointed wings.

Length

14.2–19.3 in (36–49 cm)

Wingspan

39.4–43.3 in (100–110 cm)

Weight

18.7–56.4 oz (530–1600 g)

A Peregrine Falcon with its egg.

Photo by Jason Jones.

Distribution

Peregrines are found on every continent, except Antarctica. When migrating they can travel as many as 15,500 mi (25,000 km). It is easy to see why they're named peregrine, which means “wanderer.” (Range map below)

Habitat

Most common in coastal regions, Peregrines nest in high lofty places like cliffs, water towers, or even skyscrapers. They range from the tropics to the tundra, but are most likely found near islands, coastlines, lakes, and mountains.

Prey

Peregrines hunt a variety of birds. Passerines, ducks, pigeons and gulls are all common, but they can take down prey as large as a crane. On the rare occasion these falcons will hunt mammals (bats are most common), reptiles, insects, or even steal another raptor’s kill.

Adult Peregrine feeding its chick.

Photo by Jason Jones.

Behavior

Peregrines are most noted for their flight. Top speeds have been clocked at over 200 mph! They use this to their advantage when hunting. They perch on tall structures or circle high in the air until they spot their prey. After gaining 300-3,000 ft over their prey the falcons will enter a stoop, a close-winged dive, and strike with their feet from above. The high speed impact is enough to stun or even kill most birds.

Breeding

Peregrines lay 3-4 eggs which incubate for 34 days and fledge about 6 weeks after hatching.They do not build nests but rather scrape a depression in the ledge of a cliff (or other tall structure) and will occasionally use abandoned stick nests from other species.

Copyright Notice

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Citation

InfoNatura: Animals and Ecosystems of Latin America [web application]. 2007. Version 5.0 . Arlington, Virginia (USA): NatureServe. Available: http://www.natureserve.org/infonatura. (Accessed: October 24, 2012 ).

See our young falcons fly and watch this BBC footage of a Peregrine in action.

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