34 - 58cm
0.7 - 1.2m
0.3 - 1.5kg
15 - 20 yrs
The peregrine falcon, is a large crow-sized falcon in the family Falconidae. It is renowned for its speed, reaching over 200 mph during its characteristic hunting stoop. With an officially recorded top speed of 242mph, it is the fastest animal alive, above even the golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos).
It typically has a bluish slate-grey colouration across its back and wings ending in black wingtips. The long, narrow tail is similar but with thin bars and a white band at the end. By contrast, the underparts are a rusty white barred thinly with dark brown or black. Its beak has a distinctive notch used by falcons to sever the spinal columns of its prey.
What Does it Look Like?
What Does it Sound Like?
The primary contact call between peregrines is an “ee-chup” which can vary in pitch and intensity depending on whether it is intended as a greeting or a warning. However, when communicating with a mate it will instead produce a low chittering sound. The warning cry for identifying threats is known as “kakking”, often directed at other raptors.
Compared to other birds of prey, it feeds almost exclusively on other birds such as pigeons, doves, waterfowl and songbirds. In fact, roughly 20% of the world’s birds are preyed on by peregrines, typically being those weighing 1kg or less. They rarely take mammals, aside from bats. They hunt at dawn or dusk, striking prey with their talons and catching it in mid-air.
What Does it Eat?
Where Does it Nest?
The female makes a scrape on a cliff edge, typically on a sheltered ledge, and the pair must defend this site from other peregrines and birds. 3 or 4 eggs - which bear red or brown speckled markings – are laid and then incubated for a month by both parents. The chicks are cared for by their parents for two months, but only a third will survive their first year.
It is found almost everywhere on Earth besides the polar regions and most tropical rainforests; the only exception is, curiously, New Zealand. Even so, it is the most widespread of all raptor species. It lives along mountain ranges, river valleys and coastlines, but its presence in urban areas is rapidly increasing due to easy availability of prey such as pigeons.
Where Does it Live?
What is its Status?
Up until the 1970’s, it was threatened by DDT pesticide usage which greatly affected hatch rates and lead to local extinctions, such as in Belgium. Conservation efforts have rejuvenated the population, with over 1,500 pairs now thought to be in the UK, and it is adapting well to urban areas. However, it is threatened in west Africa due to habitat destruction.
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