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Peregrine Falcon

Appearance

The wings of the peregrine falcon are blue-gray to slate-gray with black tips. Their back is brown while their white underside is barred with dark brown or black lines. The tail is coloured like the back but is banded with brown or black. Their face features a hooked, grey beak. The face is white like the underside. Their crown is black as is a line which curves down the edge of the cheek from the eye. Their feet are yellow and have black claws.

Peregrine falcons measure 36-58cm (14.17-22.83in). Their wings span a distance of 91-112cm (35.83-44.09in). Females are larger than males weighing 700-1,500g (1.5-3.3lb). Males weigh less than 700g (1.5lb).

Diet

Peregrine falcons are carnivores. The majority of their prey is birds which make up 70-90% of their diet. They are estimated to eat 1/5th of the world’s bird’s species. One falcon was observed taking down a 3.1kg (6.8lb) Sandhill crane. The rest is fulfilled by small mammals such as bats and rodents, reptiles, insects and fish.

Before they eat they will pluck the prey item.

To find prey they sit atop a cliff or tall tree where they survey for prey which they then take off to catch.

Prey is often caught through chasing it till it is too exhausted to continue. Otherwise they will actively chase it to the ground and attack the bird and then catch the prey as it falls or attack it from below. In the event it is too heavy they will just let it fall and then eat it on the ground.

During the breeding season they may catch extra food which can be stored away for later.

Peregrine Falcon

Scientific Name

Falco peregrinus

Conservation Status

Least Concern

Height

36-58cm (14.2-22.8in)

Weight

Females

700-1,500g (1.5-3.3lbs)

Males

700g (1.5lbs)

Wingpsan

91-112cm (35.8-44.1in)

Lifespan

15 years

Diet

Carnivorous

Range

Peregrine falcons are one of the world’s most widespread birds with the only continent where it is not present being Antarctica. They are also absent from the island of New Zealand.

Habitat

They can adapt to most climates and some will migrate to find the right conditions at that time of year. The only climates where they never take up residence are tropical rainforests and high mountain regions.

Reproduction

Breeding takes place from March through to May. This species lives in monogamous pairs who spend their time together throughout their year. Each year they will nest in the same spot.

When finding a mate the pair will engage in aerial acrobatics, precise spirals and steep dives. Males will give their food to a female which involves her flying upside down to achieve this.

The nest consists of a scrape normally on a cliff ledge but occasionally in a large hollow tree. In cities they have adapted to nest on bridges and skyscrapers. The female gets the choice of which nest she wants. Into this nest 2-6 buff to white eggs with red markings will be deposited with each being laid two days apart.

For 33 to 35 days the parents will incubate the eggs. Chicks are known as eyases and have creamy white down. Both the male and female will go out and hunt to feed their chicks.

Fledging occurs at 35-42 days. It takes two months for them to become independent. In between fledging and independence the parents will train them to hunt. They do this by catching prey items and then dropping them in mid-air so that the chicks can catch them.

Sexually maturity occurs between two and three years of age.

Behavior

Predators of the peregrine falcon include birds of prey such as the great horned owl, gyrfalcons and golden eagles. Mammals such as bears, cats, wolverines and foxes will most commonly hunt the nestlings and fledglings.

This species is diurnal.

Vocalisations made by this species include a “cack”, “screea, screea, screea,” “chitter,” “kee, kee kee” and “chi,chi,chi.”

Quick facts

The peregrine falcon is the world’s fastest animal. When hunting they may fly at speeds of up to 322km/h (200mph).

For over 3,000 years this species has been used in falconry.

The national animal of the United Arab Emirates is the peregrine falcon.

Chicago lists this species as their official city bird.

Photo Credits:

Top

By Dennis Jarvis from Halifax, Canada [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Middle

By Georges Lignier (georges.lignier@wanadoo.fr) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Bottom

Public Domain

References

BirdLife International 2019. Falco peregrinus (amended version of 2016 assessment). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2019: e.T45354964A155500538. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T45354964A155500538.en. Downloaded on 21 April 2020.

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