Birds of Prey: The Peregrine Falcon
As one of the most widespread raptors in the world the sleek and speedy Peregrine Falcon is found on all continents except Antarctica. With a varied range that stretches from the tundra regions of the Arctic to the tropics, the Peregrine is found in almost any climate other than the extreme polar areas and tropical rain-forests.
With such a widespread distribution around the world the Peregrine Falcon is rivaled by only the Osprey in its extensive habitat. Preferring to be near the coast where shorebirds and waterfowl are common the Peregrine can also be found anywhere from the desert landscape to the urban city setting making them one of the most adaptable birds.
The Peregrine Falcon is smaller than some of the other birds of prey such as the Bald Eagle, Osprey and Hawk measuring on average from 15 to 20 inches in length, about the size of the common crow. Its wingspan is impressive however and can reach up to four feet across while its weight will vary from about a pound up to three pounds. As with other birds of prey the female Peregrine Falcon can be up to 30% bigger than the male. The plumage is similar between the male and female with a generally black to blue-grey back and wings. The underbelly of the Falcon is usually white to off white with dark spots and the crown is generally black which contrasts with its white neck. The feet of the Peregrine are a very distinctive yellow.
Like other birds of prey the Peregrine Falcon mates for life. The mating pair will construct a simple nest or scrape usually high on a ledge, cliff, small cave, or even on skyscrapers and bridges in cities.
The diet of the Peregrine consists mainly of other smaller birds although they will occasionally hunt for small rodents and even insects. The Peregrine will prey upon other birds in mid air and use its great speed to dive (stoop) and grab other birds in a spectacular mid flight duel. A favorite meal of the Peregrine is the pigeon and the abundance of pigeons in cities along with tall skyscrapers for nesting is one reason why the Peregrine has adapted well to city life.
Spring is the mating season for the Peregrine Falcon and the female will usually lay three to four eggs. Both parents will share in the incubating duties and the eggs will hatch after about a month or so. The chicks, also known as eyases, will start to fly after about six weeks but will remain dependent on their parents while they learn to hunt for another couple of months. Falcon chicks grow very quickly and will double in size just within the first week.
Making a Comeback
The Peregrine Falcon population along with other large birds of prey was severely impacted by the use of DDT during the mid 20th century. By the mid 1960’s the Peregrine Falcon was extinct in the eastern United States and parts of Europe and was severely endangered in the western U.S.
The eventual ban of DDT along with other conservation and reintroduction efforts has resulted in a strong rebound for the Peregrine. There are now estimated to be upwards of 3,000 breeding pairs of Peregrine Falcons in Mexico, Canada and the United States and over 20,000 pairs worldwide.
In 1999 the Peregrine Falcon was removed from the U.S. federal endangered species list. Although Peregrine Falcon populations have recovered nicely in many countries the continued use of DDT in some third world countries that overlap the Peregrines range and migratory path continues to present a challenge to the recovery of the bird.
Many of the city dwelling Peregrine Falcons have become celebrities in their communities and Springfield, Massachusetts has embraced their nesting pair. Each spring brings new additions to our local Peregrine pair that is currently nesting on a window ledge of the 21st floor of Monarch Place.
These celebrities have their own live web cam and are frequently covered by the local news. There are currently 25 nesting pairs in Massachusetts and they remain on the endangered list here.
- The Peregrine Falcon is the fastest flying bird in the world and is capable of diving at speeds up to 200 mph.
- Peregrine Falcons can live up to 15 to 20 years.
- The Peregrine Falcon is also referred to as the Duck Hawk due to its habit of hunting waterfowl.
- Many Peregrine Falcons will migrate, especially those from northern regions although some will remain permanent residents. Those that migrate have been known to fly as much as 15,000 miles in a year.
- There are 19 subspecies of the Peregrine Falcon throughout the world each with a slightly distinctive look.
- The Peregrine Falcon is widely used by falconers primarily because of their amazing ability to dive at speeds of up to 200 mph.
Other articles on Birds of Prey
- Birds of Prey - The Red Tail Hawk
Everything you wanted to know about the Red Tail Hawk from their habits, range, behavior and description This beautiful Bird of Prey and is the most common hawk in North America and can be found in a variety of landscapes.
- Birds of Prey - The California Condor
Back from the brink of extinction, the California Condor is making a dramatic comeback. Learn everything you need to know about this Bird of Prey and it's remarkable recovery.
- Birds of Prey - The Osprey
Often confused for the Bald Eagle due to their black and white plumage, the Osprey is another striking member of the Birds of Prey family. Also known as the Fish Hawk or the Sea Hawk the Osprey is quite widespread around the world.
- Birds of Prey - The Great Horned Owl
The Great Horned Owl is one of the largest and most recognizable members of the owl family. Learn everything you need to know about this very adaptable and aggressive Bird of Prey.
- Birds of Prey - The Snowy Owl
Everything you need to know about the beautiful Snowy Owl. This amazing Bird of Prey is one of the largest owls in the world and certainly one of the most striking with its snowy white plumage.
© 2012 Bill De Giulio