Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)

Class: Aves
Order: Falconiformes
Family:    Falconidae
Size:    Length: 15 to 18 inches (38 to 46 cm)  Wingspan: 37 to 43 inches (94 to 109 cm)
Weight: 20 to 45 ounces (567 to 1275 grams) 
Diet: Pigeon, sky lark, grouse, gulls, waders, bats, rabbits and ducks
Distribution: North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia
Young:  2 to 6 
Animal Predators:  Great horned owls, foxes and raccoons
IUCN Status: No special status 
Terms: Male: Tiercel  Young: Chick
Lifespan: Up to 20 years



·     The Medieval English translation of the Latin falco peregrinus is “pilgrim falcon.”

·     Peregrines have extremely acute eyesight, even in dim light.

·     Falconry—the training of falcons to hunt other birds—was practiced in China earlier than 2000 BC.



Long ago, in England, a man was allowed to own only a certain type of falcon, according to his rank. Peregrine falcons were owned by earls. The term falcon actually applies to the female, while the male is called a tiercel (derived from the Old French word terçuel meaning one-third, because males are approximately one-third smaller than females). Therefore, in falconry, the peregrines used are almost always females because they are more powerful hunters than the males. Peregrine falcons have long, pointed wings and a short, hooked beak. Their throat and breast are pale in colour, with dark speckles and stripes extending down onto the legs. Their upper wings and head are dark grey. 



Peregrine falcons are found in almost every corner of the world, with the exception of rainforests and extremely cold Arctic regions. They often build their nests on rocky cliffs, but have had to make adjustments in many cases due to the ever-increasing human population, and are now known to also nest high atop office towers.


Feeding Habits

Peregrine falcons hunt and capture birds while in flight—including doves, pigeons, sparrows and ducks. They prey almost exclusively on birds, although they may occasionally capture and eat a reptile or a small mammal. 



Unpaired males court females in the spring by performing aerial acrobatic feats and making loud calls. Once paired, peregrine falcons stay together for life. The male shows his mate several possible nesting sites and she chooses one. The female lays one egg every other day, to a maximum of six but usually three or four. The parents take turns incubating the eggs for the next month, although the female does most of the sitting while the male hunts for food for her. Once hatched, the white down-covered nestlings remain in the nest for another month before beginning to learn to fly. Their flight feathers first start to appear at about three weeks and by six weeks have grown in. The chicks are cared for by both parents, who are fiercely protective of their brood. The adults train them to hunt by holding prey in their talons while the youngsters try to snatch it away as they fly past. Once the young peregrines are capable of capturing their own prey, they begin to venture out on their own. 



Peregrines are the world’s fastest fliers, clocked at speeds up to 300 kph (180 mph) on a dive. When hunting, males and females prey on different species of birds, eliminating competition within a pair. 



DDT, a type of pesticide, is believed to be the main cause of the decline in the peregrine population. The chemical is ingested by the falcon’s prey, entering the bloodstream of the falcon in a high concentration and harming not only their ability to reproduce, but creating thinner shells in their eggs, resulting in their loss. Habitat destruction and hunting are also attributed to the peregrines’ decline. Peregrine falcons are protected under Endangered Species Acts in Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick, protecting them from hunting, collecting, harassment and destruction of habitat. They are protected in varying degrees in the other provinces as well. In the U.S., many programs have been underway to protect peregrines, including the banning of DDT, and in 1999, they were removed from the endangered list in the States. Today, two of the three North American subspecies have no special status. Due to intensive reintroduction programs across Canada, the third species, the anatum Peregrine Falcon, is making a comeback and has been upgraded to Threatened from Endangered on Environment Canadas COSEWIC Species at Risk list. 



Peregrine Falcon Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US