Peregrine Falcon

Scientific Name: Falco peregrinus. This literally translates to “traveling (or wandering) falcon”.

Description: For adult Peregrine Falcons, their head, back, tail and back of the wings are covered in feathers that range from blue-grey to almost black. Their torso and underwings have white to tawny colored feathers with black,  horizontal barring across the belly. Juveniles have barring that is vertical and their feathers are browner than the adults in color. Adult Peregrines can range from 530-1600g, with the females being larger than males. Their wingspan is about 3-3.5 feet long on average.

Behavior: Peregrine Falcons nest on cliff ledges sometimes 1,300 feet or more in height! While the pair does not do any nest building themselves, they may sometimes choose to use abandoned nests from other bird species. They usually lay 2-5 eggs and, after a month of incubation, will raise the chicks for the next 2-3 months until the young are able to care for themselves. Peregrines are one of the most incredible predators on earth. They can get up to 67 mph when flying straight in pursuit of prey. However, it is their dive that is truly amazing. Peregrine Falcons will perch or soar high in the air until they spot their prey- mostly other birds. They then go into a stoop- a controlled dive through the air- where they can reach speeds over 230mph, faster than any animal on the planet. If prey is too large to grab, the bird will ball up a foot and literally punch their prey out of the sky. The falcon will then arc up and swoop back down at a slower pace to land near their food. 

Diet: Mostly other birds, varying from smaller birds like sparrows and hummingbirds up to ducks or larger. Some have even been observed hunting cranes. Peregrine Falcons will also eat bats and sometimes steal prey from other predatory birds.

Range: Peregrine Falcons are found on every continent, except Antarctica. This map shows where they can be found in North America. 

Conservation: The North American Peregrine Falcon population crashed in the 1950s to the 1970s due to the effects of DDT, an insecticide that was running off into wild water sources. Thankfully, the use of DDT was outlawed and the Peregrine Falcon population was stabilized through breed-and-release programs in zoos, rescues and wildlife centers. They were removed from the Endangered Species List in 1999 and are now considered a species of Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. Nowadays, their biggest threats are habitat loss and poaching.

How you can help: Peregrines have faced multiple issues with poisons- oil spills, pesticides and more. As individuals, we can do our part to help make the world safer for Peregrine Falcons by looking into and supporting eco-friendly solutions, such as electric cars and natural pest repellants. 

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