Blink once and this bird will zoom past before you even notice!
The peregrine falcon is one of the most well-known birds in the Falconidae family. This bird is also known simply as the ‘peregrine’, or as ‘duck hawk’ in parts of North America.
This bird is the fastest of all the birds and even the fastest of all the animals under the animal kingdom. This speed is not attainable in level flights but is gained when they soar high in the sky, and then dive towards the ground steeply. You would not realize when they would swoosh down, grab their prey and disappear into thin air!
These birds are found almost everywhere around the world. The only places you would not spot them are towards the extreme poles, lush tropical forests as well as extremely high peaks. About 17-19 subspecies of this bird exist, spread wide around the world.
Peregrine falcons are a type of bird.
The peregrine falcons come under the class Aves.
There is no exact record of the total count of this species. But they are abundantly available everywhere, so no need to fear for its population decline!
Mountain tops, high-rise buildings, coastal lines, or river valleys, you will find these peregrine falcons almost everywhere!
These birds prefer high locations, but can be found in almost any region. In cities, they usually build their homes on top of buildings. They also live among the mountains, near rivers, or along coastlines. These birds prefer slightly lower temperatures while choosing the ideal habitat. However, you will not find them at the extreme polar ends.
These falcons actually prefer living with their partners throughout their life.
Peregrine falcons live up to 19 years.
These falcons reach their maturity when they are one to three years old, however, they begin mating only when they pass two years. The peregrine pairs are monogamous, and every year they return back to the back nesting spots. They lure each other by spiraling, steep diving, as well as aerial stunts!
The peregrine is a territorial bird in the mating season. These birds ensure that the nests of their fellow mates are well distant, at least more than a kilometer away. This practice ensures that there is sufficient area to get enough food for themselves as well as the chicks.
Their nests are built usually at the edges of cliffs. These nests are made either in soil, gravel, sand, or dying vegetation, and the eggs are laid in them. These nests are well protected against predators such as wolves, bears, ravens, foxes, and herons.
In the Northern Hemisphere, the eggs are laid usually between February to March, whereas the falcon eggs are laid between July and August in the Southern Hemisphere. About three to five eggs are laid in a batch. Incubation takes about a month. The chicks, when born, are covered in a creamy layer. The parent birds arrange food for their little ones until they are independent and ready to fly.
The conservation status of the peregrine states 'Least Concern'.
This falcon is large in size, with its size nearly that of a crow. Usually, the backs and wings of the adult falcons are of blue-grey or slate-grey hue, with the tip of the wings being black. Both the male and the female species of this falcon sport similar marks on both their plumage as well as their bodies. Their tails are long but not pointy; they are round at their ends with a black and white band. Their heads are black in colour, and they also have a sort of ‘moustache’ which is of a dark grey tint. This stands out in contrast to their white throats and creamy to beige neck. Their underparts are barred in shades of cream or white. They have pointy yellow ceres and feet, yet their talons and beaks are black in color. The beaks are not straight, but notched at the tip, which helps them in effectively killing their prey. Younger birds have a brown hue and streaked underparts, and possess a light blue cere.
We would say these peregrines are moderately cute.
Peregrines have several methods of communication. Various vocalizations are used to convey different purposes, such as territorial calls, call of threat, food calls, or even calling their fellow falcons.
The little chicks make loud ‘screee’ sounds if they are hungry. If they are hunting, or are territorial, they make loud, shrill ‘kee’ sounds that echo in long distances. While attacking or if they want to raise alarm, they make ‘ka-a-ack’ sounds.
Body language is also extensively used to communicate their emotions. These falcons are known to lift up their tail feathers to show anger and aggression, or would even gape to show their oppression. In situations where they need to show their submission, they lower their head and pull in their feathers close to the body.
The peregrine’s body is about 13-23 in (33-59 cm). Their wingspan is near 29-47 in(74-120 cm ) wide. Their wing chords measure about 10.4-15.5 in (26.5-39 cm), and their tails measure between 5.1-7.5 in (13-19 cm). The tarsus measures about 1.8-2.2 in (4.5-5.6 cm).
Their bodies are almost the size of crows.
The peregrine can fly up to speeds of 200-242 mph (322-390 kph) whilst diving!
Male peregrines have considerably smaller bodies than their females. The males weigh between 0.74-2.2 lb(0.35-1 kg). The females weigh around 1.5-3.3 lb (0.68-1.5 kg). Records have shown that the average weight of the male falcons is less than 1.5 lb (0.68 kg), and that of the female ones is more than 1.6 lb (0.72 kg).
The male falcons are called 'tiercel', and the female peregrines are simply called 'falcons'.
The baby peregrine bird is called an 'eyas'.
These birds feed purely on meat. They are not hasty in catching their food - they roam in the skies until they find the perfect meal.
They eat smaller reptiles and smaller mammals. They even prey on other birds such as doves, ducks, and pigeons. If they are unable to find enough food, they even feed on insects. They even have the potential to hunt down larger birds as prey.
This carnivorous bird can be dangerous, as they have sharp talons and pointy beaks.
We really do not think peregrine falcons would make good pets, as they can attack anything that seems to be a threat, however in some countries they are known to be kept in falconries, performing various stunts for an audience.
Kidadl Advisory: All pets should only be bought from a reputable source. It is recommended that as a potential pet owner you carry out your own research prior to deciding on your pet of choice. Being a pet owner is very rewarding but it also involves commitment, time and money. Ensure that your pet choice complies with the legislation in your state and/or country. You must never take animals from the wild or disturb their habitat. Please check that the pet you are considering buying is not an endangered species, or listed on the CITES list, and has not been taken from the wild for the pet trade.
This bird is the national animal of the United Arab Emirates.
Chicago city has also chosen the peregrine falcon as its national animal.
The term ‘peregrine’ means ‘a wanderer’, or ‘a pilgrim’.
Falcons can see almost eight times better than the human eye!
The eyes of the peregrines take up about 50% of their skulls, whereas the human eyes take up about 5% of the skull!
One of the important parts of the eye is the Fovea, which contributes to a clearer vision. While a human eye has only one fovea, the peregrine eye has not one, but two foveas (temporal and central) for each eye. Using the temporal fovea, the falcon can see the world ahead of it with binocular vision but towards close targets only. The central fovea is used only for one eye at a time and hence they use monocular vision into focusing on things that are further away.
The peregrine feet have hard papillae, which helps in getting a secure grip on prey. But what makes a better catch is the presence of 0.8 in long tongue which grasps their food well.
The beaks of the peregrine falcons have a ‘tomial tooth’, which dislocates the neck of their prey.
These falcons fly and gain high speeds using the Venturi effect - the same effect which is used by Formula 1 racing cars. The birds achieve the Venturi effect with a streamlined shape by cupping their wings close to their bodies.
Surprisingly, peregrines have a third eyelid, a nictitating membrane, which helps to moisten, clean, and protect the eyes of these birds.
Nasal cones on the beaks help to slow down the airflow towards their bodies, helping the Peregrines to breathe comfortably at high speeds.
The peregrine falcon is often seen as a symbol of martial prowess, power, and aggression. Thus, the old Germanic tribes considered this bird as an emblem of battles.
Ra, the Egyptian God of sun, sky, kings, and order, was often pictured as a man with the head of a peregrine falcon. The head was crowned with a solar disk.
The Mississippian Native Americans considered the peregrine to be symbolizing ‘celestial powers’, or ‘powers from the above’. Men of elite status were buried in attires that were associated with this bird. They also believed that the falcons ruled our lands before mankind took over royalty. Thus, falcons are engraved on many of their weapons and tools as a remembrance of this deity.
The Western European nobles and royalty used this falcon for hunting, back in the late Middle Ages. As per the formal hierarchical order for preying birds, the peregrines were associated with the princes, whereas the gyrfalcons were equal in status to the kings.
As the peregrine can go miles in search of prey, they are also symbolized as an emblem of strength and determination.
Falcons were often considered to symbolize winning or victory. Spiritually, this victory meant complete salvation to those held in any form of bondage. Thus, ancient Egyptians released these birds during the burials of their Pharaohs, who would then guide the souls of these kings to a better life.
You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one of our peregrine falcon coloring pages.