PEREGRINE FALCON(Falco peregrinus)

The Peregrine falcon (also simply called ‘peregrine’) is a raptor that specializes in catching its prey (almost exclusively birds) in flight. It dives on them at speeds up to 320 km/h (200 mph) but only reach their targets around 20% of the time. That speed is the fastest any animal can reach, and the bird’s anatomy is designed to withstand the high pressure caused by that speed on its organs.

The peregrine falcon is a favorite of falconers, who have used it for centuries. Incidentally, it is with the help of those skilled trainers that peregrines recovered.

The peregrine falcon is dark blue-grey on top including the neck, its throat and under parts are buff with brown bars. The eye is very large relative to the head size. The bill is hooked and dark grey, as well as the feet. It measures around 45 cm (18 in.) long. Sexes are similar in color but the female is larger. There are many subspecies of peregrines.

The word ‘peregrine’ in the name refers to the fact that in the Middle Ages, when people wanted to catch juveniles, they had to do so while the birds were on ‘pilgrimage’ to their nests, because the latter were inaccessible. Although the peregrine falcon feeds on birds, its impact on any bird species is not significant enough to endanger them.

The peregrine falcon does not breed on PEI and its sightings are either rare, uncommon or occasional, depending on the year and the season. Peregrine falcons are found all over the world, even in Greenland, but not in Antarctica or New Zealand. This website provides good information on the peregrine falcon.

Conservation: During the DDT years, the species was severely impacted but made a surprising recovery thanks to captive breeding efforts. It has been successfully introduced in many cities to take advantage of its taste for pigeons, which are a scourge for buildings and monuments due to their guano. In spite of its remarkable recovery, the peregrine falcon is still a species of ‘special concern’.

Peregrine falcon at nest, Alaska - USFWS
Peregrine falcon at nest, Alaska – USFWS
Closeup of head, Peregrine falcon - photo by Greg Hume
Closeup of head, Peregrine falcon – photo by Greg Hume