Scientific Name: Falco peregrinus
Size & Appearance:
The females are noticeably larger than the males. There are 16
subspecies world wide, 3 of which are in North America: the light
colored and long distant migrant tundrius of the Alaskan and Canadian
tundra, the pealei, darkest and most sedentary of the subspecies, found
along western North American coastlines, and the anatum, of the
mid-continent. Interbreeding between the anatum and pealei subspecies
during reintroduction efforts in the late 1970s has lead to a profusion
of darker, usually more western birds being commonly found on the
eastern part of the continent.
peregrines have long pointed wings, a noticeable wide dark mustache
mark surrounding the eye and dropping down to below the chin, and a
squared, medium length tail. Wings extend to almost the tip of
the tail when the bird is perched. Length:16 - 20 inches, wing
span: 36 - 44 inches. Males usually weigh between 16-24 ounces,
the females between 25 - 34 ounces. The juveniles have different
plumage from the adults for the first three years of life, and are
usually much more brown with a front that has more obvious streaks.
Breeds from northern Alaska, Banks, Victoria, southern Melville,
Somerset and northern Baffin Islands, and Labrador south to Baja
California, southern Arizona, New Mexico, western and central Texas,
and Colorado; recently re-introduced and re-established as a breeding
bird in parts of the northeastern United States. Winters from southern
Alaska, the Queen Charlotte Islands, coastal British Columbia, the
central and southern United States, and New Brunswick south to South
America. Usually inhabits open country from tundra and seacoasts, to
high mountains and more open forested regions, preferably where there
are rocky cliffs with ledges overlooking rivers, lakes, or other water
and an abundance of birds. Sometimes breeds in cities. Monogamous.
Pursues prey, primarily birds, after sighting from perch or while
soaring. Small to medium sized birds are usually captured in flight;
birds too large to be carried are knocked to the ground. Feeds on a
wide variety of birds; occasionally takes mammals, some insects, and
fishes. Can hunt cooperatively.
Nesting & Eggs:
Prefers to nest in a shallow depression scraped in gravel and debris on
a high cliff ledge, pothole, or small cave that provides sanctuary from
disturbance. Bluffs, slopes, pinnacles, cutbanks, and seastacks are
also used as nest sites in the far north. Other nest sites include old
stick nests of ravens and hawks, ledges of tall buildings and bridges,
ships masts and historically, holes and stubs of large trees. May
occasionally use provided nest boxes. Tends to return to the same
One brood per season of
between 3-4 eggs which are incubated mostly by the female.
Incubation lasts on average 23 - 24 days, and the chicks are hatched
out mobile, downy, follow the parents around the nest and learn food
types from the parents. They fledge within 10 - 12 days of
hatching and are tended primarily by the female with the male bringing
in food to the nest.
placed on the Endangered Species list in the early 1970s due to rapid
population declines primarily due to DDT and other organochlorine
pesticides. Population increases lead to the delisting of the Peregrine
in 1999, but the species is still considered rare and endangered
throughout much of its’ range.
These birds are considered to be the fastest animals on earth, diving
after prey in speeds in excess of 260 miles per hour. The
Peregrine Restoration Project began in the New River Gorge in 2006 to
try to re-establish the falcons into the Southern Appalachians.