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Everything You Wanted to Know About the Peregrine Falcon

I have always had an interest in nature and birds of prey in particular. Join me in learning about these majestic creatures.

Adult and chick in their ledge nest

Adult and chick in their ledge nest

The sleek and speedy peregrine falcon, one of the most widespread raptors in the world, 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 can be found in almost any climate other than extreme polar areas and tropical rainforests.

With such widespread distribution, the peregrine falcon is rivaled by only the osprey in terms of worldwide range. While they prefer to be near the coast where shorebirds and waterfowl are common, peregrines can be found in barren desert landscapes and urban city settings, making them one of the most adaptable birds of prey.

Peregrine falcon perched atop a ledge

Peregrine falcon perched atop a ledge

Physical Characteristics

The peregrine falcon is smaller than some of the other birds of prey, such as the bald eagle, osprey, and hawk, measuring between 15 and 20 inches in length on average—about the size of the common crow. Its wingspan is impressive, however, and can reach up to four feet across, while its weight varies from about a pound to three pounds.

As with other birds of prey, the female peregrine falcon can be up to 30% larger than the male. The plumage is similar between the male and female; both tend to have black to blue-grey backs 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 the white neck. The feet of the peregrine are a very distinctive yellow.

Diet and Hunting

The diet of the peregrine consists mainly of other smaller birds, although they will occasionally hunt for small rodents and even insects. Peregrines frequently prey upon other birds in mid-air and use their great speed to dive (stoop) and grab other birds in spectacular mid-flight duels. 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.

Female peregrine incubating her chicks and eggs

Female peregrine incubating her chicks and eggs

Reproduction

Like other birds of prey, the peregrine falcon mates for life. Mated pairs construct simple nests or scrapes high on ledges, cliffs, small caves, or even on skyscrapers and under bridges in cities.

Spring is the mating season for the peregrine falcon. Females typically lay three to four eggs. Parents share the incubating duties, and eggs usually hatch after about a month or so. Chicks, also known as eyases, start to fly after about six weeks but remain dependent on their parents while they learn to hunt for another couple of months. Falcon chicks grow very quickly and typically double in size during their first week.

Conservation Status

The peregrine falcon population (along with the populations of other large birds of prey) was severely impacted by the use of DDT during the mid 20th century. By the mid-1960s, 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 species. There are now estimated to be upwards of 3,000 breeding pairs 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 populations have recovered nicely in many countries, the continued use of DDT in some countries that overlap the peregrine's range and migratory path continues to present challenges to the population's recovery.

Urban peregrine nesting on a window ledge

Urban peregrine nesting on a window ledge

Urban Populations

Many city-dwelling peregrines have become celebrities in their communities, and Springfield, Massachusetts, has embraced one of its nesting pairs. Each spring brings new additions to our local peregrine pair, which currently nest on a window ledge of the 21st floor of Monarch Place.

These celebrities have their own live webcam and are frequently covered by the local news. There are currently 25 nesting pairs in Massachusetts, and the species remains on the endangered list here.

Pretty peregrine strutting her stuff

Pretty peregrine strutting her stuff

Interesting Facts About Peregrine Falcons

  • They are the fastest flying bird in the world and are capable of diving at speeds up to 200 mph.
  • They can live to between 15 and 20 years.
  • They are also referred to as the duck hawks due to their habit of hunting waterfowl.
  • Many migrate, especially from northern regions, although some remain permanent residents. Those that migrate have been known to fly as many as 15,000 miles in a year.
  • There are 19 subspecies throughout the world, each with its own slightly distinctive look.
  • They are widely used by falconers primarily because of their amazing ability to dive at speeds of up to 200 mph.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Bill De Giulio

Comments

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on February 02, 2013:

Thank you clinkypengi. One of my favorite topics. Welcome to HubPages. Have a great day.

clinkypengi on February 02, 2013:

Your articles are so detailed and pleasant to read. I will be looking at your other Birds of Prey :)

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on June 11, 2012:

@tammyswallow. I'll have to find that poem and give it a read. Thanks for reading and commenting. Have a great day.

@wewillmake. Yes they are the queen of raptors. An amazing bird. Thanks for visiting. Have a great day.

@ chef-de-jour. Lucky you to have have a multitude of raptors in your area. Watching the Falcon swoop down to an unaware prey is an amazing sight. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Andrew Spacey from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK on June 10, 2012:

When we lived in Andalucia, Spain, at a height of 1300m peregrines were a common sight, vying with raven and hawks for air space- plus other larger raptors! There is enough freedom for them all though. The peregrine is super fast as you mention and strikes unaware prey with unbelievable speed.

Thanks for the run through and pictures.

wewillmake from kerala-INDIA on June 10, 2012:

Its the queen of the predators... Nice hub..

Tammy from North Carolina on June 10, 2012:

Such beautiful and magestic birds. William Butler Yeats has a wonderful poem "The Falcon" and this is what I thought of when reading this and seeing the photos. I hope to see one in real life one day. Excellent!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on June 07, 2012:

Thank You unknown spy. Appreciate you reading and taking the time to comment. Have a great day.

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Life Under Construction from Neverland on June 07, 2012:

Wow super great hub you have here!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on June 07, 2012:

Thanks AnimalWrites. I started with the Red Tail Hawk and have sort of run with the theme for a bit here. They are beautiful birds. Thanks for reading and commenting.

AnimalWrites from Planet Earth on June 06, 2012:

Thanks for the great information on peregrine falcons, I didn't realise there were so many great hubs on birds of prey on HP. Peregrine falcons were one of the favourite raptors used for hawking during the Middle Ages, and are beautiful birds

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on June 04, 2012:

Hi manuspohr. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. Have a great day.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on June 04, 2012:

Hi James. Amazing aren't they? Apparently the Peregrine is a favorite of falconers because of their amazing speed and ability to dive. Appreciate the visit and comments.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on June 04, 2012:

Pagesvoice - Agreed. I almost put a reference to that in the article about how we could learn a thing or two from the Peregrine. Lucky you to live in an area with these beautiful birds. Thanks for reading and voting....

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on June 04, 2012:

Thanks Lesley. I learned a few things also in researching this article. The Peregrine is a fascinating bird. Thanks for the votes and reading.

manuspohr from Massachussets on June 04, 2012:

Nice job man, is beautiful article, i love birds.

James Kenny from Birmingham, England on June 04, 2012:

Another fantastic Hub about another magnificent bird. I remember seeing a peregrine in a falconry display. The falconer encouraged him to fly as high as possible (it helped that it was sunny and cloudless) He got so high, that all you could see was a tiny speck, all of a sudden he zoomed down and grabbed onto the dummy prey. It was such an awesome sight.

Dennis L. Page from New York/Pennsylvania border on June 04, 2012:

Voted up, awesome, beautiful and interesting. The falcon is most definitely a marvelous bird. The area I live in has 3 rivers and these birds are well known to us. We also have some that nest on one of our office buildings. I didn't realize these birds, just like the morning doves, mate for life. Maybe humans should start taking notes. In any event, you presented a great informative article.

Movie Master from United Kingdom on June 04, 2012:

I have learnt much from your wonderful article and 'interesting facts' on this fabulous bird. I didn't realise they are the fastest flying bird in the world or that they can live up to 20 years.

Symonds Yat, which is just a short distance from where I live is famous for it's nesting Peregrine Falcons, many people visit there to catch a glimpse of them.

Voting up and shared.

Best wishes Lesley

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on June 03, 2012:

Thanks aviannovice. Aprreciate that from someone who I consider to be an authority on birds. The nesting pair here in Springfield, MA are doing very well and all four chicks have been banded and are growing quickly. It's great to be able to follow their progress. Appreciate you stopping by to read and comment and the vote.

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on June 03, 2012:

Awesome and up. These are one of the birds that has moved into the cities and done very well by it. You did a great job on this hub.

Lenzy from Arlington, Texas on June 02, 2012:

I'll be watching for your photos if you ever get the opportunity. Thanks for the reply. Lenzy

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on June 02, 2012:

Hi Lenzy. I completely agree with you about the pictures and I always try to use my own but in this case there is only this one nesting pair and the Dept of Environmental Protection keeps a close eye on them and their nest. The pair are occasionally seen hunting in the sky's above Springfield but I've never had an opportunity to photograph them. Maybe someday. The nest is on the 21st floor of a building and they don't let the public view it. Anyway, appreciate you reading and the nice comments. Have a great day.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on June 02, 2012:

Thanks Suzie. I wasn't going to write about the Peregrine because I don't have any pictures of them but they are the Rock Stars of Springfield, Massachusetts so I thought it was only fitting to do an article about them. It was a good year for this nesting pair as all four chicks are doing well. Last year this pair unfortunately lost three chicks in the freak tornado that went through downtown Springfield. Thanks for reading and the vote.

Lenzy from Arlington, Texas on June 02, 2012:

I enjoyed the information on the Peregrine Falcon. The photos are beautiful but I enjoy yours even more because it makes it more personal. It is still an excellent hub. Keep up the great work. Lenzy

Suzanne Ridgeway from Dublin, Ireland on June 02, 2012:

Super interesting article bdeguilio, I'd no idea they are the fastest bird and can dive at such speed! Really interesting and very informative in a lovely style.Voted up up up!!!

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