Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

Details About The Peregrine Falcon

  • General Information

    The sexes are alike in plumage but females are noticeably larger (tiercel - male is 1/3 smaller than female). The thick dark mustache mark is the key identification characteristic. Iris is dark brown. Nares are circular with a central bony tubercle.

    Latin Name: Falco peregrinus
    Class: Aves
    Order: Falconiformes
    Family: Falconidae
    Length: 14-18 inches
    Weight: 1-2.1 pounds
    Wingspan: 37-46 inches
    Common Name: Pigeon Hawk, Little Blue Corporal, Bullet Hawk
    Etymology: duck hawk falco (Latin) - refers to sickle-shaped talons or the shape of the wings in flight; peregrinus (Latin) - "wandering"

  • Flight, Voice & Habitat

    Peregrines are spectacular fliers, performing vertical dives (stoops) from great heights, striking their prey at great speeds in mid-air. Their active flight is with shallow but stiff and powerful wing beats. The flap looks shallow and seems to roll down wing in undulating pulses. 

    Peregrine Falcons are loud! A rapid kek kek kek kek kek; at eyrie, a repeated we'chew.

    Peregrines are most commonly found near tall cliffs, which are used both as nesting and perching sites. They also like to be near a source of water, but otherwise are comfortable in many different climates/temperatures. They have very large home ranges, and are incredibly nest-protective, with reports of birds attacking intruders as far as a mile from the nest.

  • Nesting

    These falcons are usually two years old when they begin brooding. They do not make a nest, usually only a small scraping. They nest primarily on cliffs, but will use an old nest in trees, building ledges and bridges. The female lays 3-4 eggs. The incubation lasts 33-35 days and is mostly by female though male helps. Age at first flight is 39-46 days (male) and 41-49 days (female). Young are brown and have a buffy breast with streaking. Northern populations will migrate, following their food source, but they will return to their same nest locations.

  • Distribution

    The Peregrine is cosmopolitan in distribution, occurring worldwide, mostly in arctic to temperate areas. In 1989, seven nesting pairs were reintroduced into Carolinas (Grandfather Mountain, Mt. Mitchell, White Rock Cliff, Chimney Rock, Linville Gorge), but their success in nesting was not good.

  • Food

    Peregrines fly with extreme power and speed, and are probably only limited by prey distribution. They hunt in open areas such as shores, marshes, valleys where prey has little chance to hide. They typically hunt birds with a success rate of 20-30%. They hunt several hundred species of birds, including shorebirds and pigeons; females tend to take larger prey than males. Peregrines use a high-speed stoop, striking birds in mid-air. When striking a bird, they will hit either with talons balled or open. They may also grab larger birds (like goose or pheasant) and ride them to the ground. Peregrines will also chase land birds offshore to tire them out.

  • Current Resident Birds

    Aragorn, a male Peregrine Falcon, is named after a character in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. He may look a little different than a "normal" Peregrine because he is a northern tundra or arctic subspecies. That subspecies is highly migratory and are smaller and lighter in color than the continental or American Peregrine. Although they may look different, they can still travel at speeds of over 200 miles per hour!!


  • Fun Facts & Other Interesting Information

    The Peregrine Falcon is arguably the fastest bird in the sky. Its streamlined body, powerful muscles and swept-back wing shape are perfect for fast flight. The Peregrine Falcon is built for speed!

    Peregrine Falcons have adapted to living in many cities and make use of tall buildings that provide suitable ledges for nesting and depend on the large populations of pigeons and starlings in cities for food.