Peregrine Falcon

The Peregrine Falcon is a large bird of prey that possess immense strength. These territorial birds are so strong that they are capable of snapping apart the spinal cord of a human. Peregrine Falcons also display such extraordinary prowess in flight, that they are widely considered to be the fastest birds in the world.

About Peregrine Falcons

The population of these birds was heavily declining during the middle of the 20th century, but they have had a strong rebound in their numbers. This decline was the result of the rapid increase in the agricultural usage of chemical pesticides such as DDT during the mid-20th century. These pesticides were adversely affecting their habitat. Now that their use has been curtailed, the numbers of Peregrine Falcons populations are at an all-time high.

These birds are so ferocious that they’ve been observed hunting over 300 species of birds. Their presence in a certain habitat might benefit the species of birds they don’t prefer eating and can be detrimental to species of birds that are preferred prey for them. Their frighteningly high speed allows them to be such excellent hunters.

As these birds have always been important throughout their range, extensive recovery efforts were taken when they were endangered. Recovery teams bred them in captivity and provided them with food till they were old enough to survive on their own. Once it was time for captive-bred falcons to be released, they were placed in special nests on the top of a tower or cliff. After acclimation to their new surroundings, they were finally released. Peregrine Falcons seem especially interesting, don’t they? Let’s learn a little more about them.

● Peregrine Falcon Photos, Color Pattern, Song
● Peregrine Falcon Size, Eating behavior, Habitat
● Peregrine Falcon Range and Migration, Nesting


Peregrine Falcon Color Pattern

The upper bodies of Peregrine Falcons found in the north are mostly bluish-grey, and their lower bodies are white, grey, or buffy. Their underparts have a significant amount of blackish spotting and barring, especially in the males. These birds have blackish heads that have blackish facial stripes extending down from their eyes.

The tails and underwings of Peregrine Falcons possess a number of black or pale grey bars. Peregrine Falcons in other areas might be different colors. Their underparts might be white to rufous, and their upper parts can possess various shades of blue, black, or grey.

Juveniles are similar-looking, but the color of their plumage is generally darker. Immatures also have blackish streaks instead of bars on their underparts. Peregrine falcons don’t undergo any significant changes in the color of their plumage once they become adults. The feathers of these birds might undergo significant wear and tear, but Peregrine Falcons do not molt. During the breeding season, their plumages are the brightest.

Description and Identification

Peregrine Falcons are so widespread throughout the world, that they possess 19 subspecies, which all differ in colors and sizes. Although there is an apparent difference between these subspecies, Peregrine Falcons are still comparatively easy to identify as they are such common birds.

Peregrine Falcons are called the same because they are “wanderers”. These birds migrate up to 15,500 miles annually. In flight, the long-winged shape of these birds can be noticed as they have long primary feathers.

To a large extent, the appearance of Peregrine Falcons varies throughout its extensive range due to differences in age and climate conditions. Although this is the case, their overall look is still steely and barred.

Other than through their physical appearance, you can identify a Peregrine Falcon by their calls and songs. These birds mostly use vocalizations to communicate with their mates or their offspring. Their calls are also very individual-specific, meaning that most birds can be individually identified through their unique, but similar-sounding calls.

Peregrine Falcon Song

Peregrine Falcons produce a number of vocalizations that all serve various different purposes. Younglings beg for food by vocalizing a “screea, screea, screea” call. When alarmed, or while protecting their nests, Peregrine Falcons make a “cack” Call. It goes “kaa-a-aack, kaa-a-ack”.

Other prominent calls which they use in a variety of contexts are the “chitter” and “eechip” calls. The chitter call involves a quick series of “chis”, and the “eechip” call is characterized as “kee-u-chip”. The chip portion of the call is the loudest and requires the most amount of energy.

Peregrine Falcons vocalize sharp, territorial calls while hunting. These calls are generally in quick succession. “Kee kee kee” is one example of the same.

Peregrine Falcon Size

Peregrine Falcons are medium to large Falcons which display sexual dimorphism in relation to size. Females are 15-20% larger than males. In some cases, females can be up to 50% heavier than the males. When you compare them to other Falcons that live in North America, this Crow-sized bird is one of the largest.

Their length is between 14.2-19.3 inches, they weigh between 18.7-56.4 ounces, and their wingspan can be between 39.4-43.4 inches. Their physical characteristics are similar to those of other Falcons.

Peregrine Falcon Behavior

These magnificent birds fly as fast as 67 mph while chasing their prey. Just the cursing speed of Peregrine Falcon’s averages between 24-33 mph. While swooping, or dropping down on prey, they have reached speeds as high as 238 mph.

These ferocious birds of prey perch atop high tree branches while looking for their prey. The sight of the Peregrine Falcons is especially good, due to which they are great visual hunters. Before killing their prey, they stoop 300-3,000 feet above their prey. They obtain their prey by either grabbing it or striking it hard enough with their feet to kill or stun it.

Peregrine Falcons use their strong jaws to tear open the necks of their prey if the obtained prey isn’t already dead. These birds use various other hunting methods. Level pursuit, hunting individual birds within flocks, and sometimes even hunting on the ground are some of the many methods they excel in. These birds are generally active during the day.

Although Peregrine Falcons are excellent predators, they are also commonly predated by other birds. Larger birds like Eagles, Gyrfalcons, Great Horned Owls, and other Peregrines often predate Peregrine Falcons. In comparison to adults, nestlings have a larger number of predators that hunt them. Humans steal their eggs for falconry.

Peregrine Falcons are monogamous birds that mate for life. They also use the same nesting spot for their entire lives. During the breeding season, these birds use various courtship displays to find potential mates. Courtship flights are the most common. One of the most interesting portions of their courtship flights is the male passing caught prey to females in mid-air. The female swoops down to obtain the prey from the male’s talons.

Peregrine Falcons are territorial birds, so nesting pairs are generally 1 kilometer apart. Their hunting sites are usually about 3 miles away from their nesting sites.

Peregrine Falcon Diet

In terms of frequency, birds make up about 77-99% of their diet. Birds like Pigeons and Doves are the ones most commonly hunted. Other than these, they also consume Ducks, shorebirds, Woodpeckers, Jays, Thrushes, Swifts, Rails, and Cuckoos.

Except for birds, Peregrine Falcons also eat some insects, mammals, fish, and amphibians. The predominantly consumed food generally differs according to the habitat and range of these birds.

If these birds are significantly higher than their potential prey, hunting is generally successful. Mostly hunted prey is brought to their perches for eating, or cached for later consumption. If the prey is as small as a bat, then they might eat it mid-air.

Peregrine Falcon Habitat

You can find these birds all around the world in various kinds of habitats. Skyscrapers and cliffs are the most common habitats for nesting in North America.

These birds generally prefer open habitats such as meadows, tundra, and grasslands. Rarely, they also reside in tropical and subtropical habitats. Peregrine Falcons have recently become a common sight in urban areas due to the availability of tall buildings for nesting. A big advantage of residing in urban areas for them is the abundance of Pigeons.

Peregrine Falcons can nest in elevations as high as 13,000 feet during the breeding season, and they make stopovers in even higher elevations during migration. While migrating they inhabit areas such as seacoasts, mountain ranges, lake edges, and barrier islands.

Range and Migration

Except for rainforests and cold Arctic regions, Peregrine Falcons are common worldwide. They are one of the most widespread species of birds in the world. Most populations are migratory, but populations from the southern Palearctic do not migrate. Peregrine Falcons living near islands also usually do not migrate.

The migratory populations have breeding and wintering ranges that are thousands of miles away from each other. Peregrine Falcons that live in the northernmost portion of their range breed in the tundra of Canada and Alaska, and migrate as far as central Argentina and Chile to reach their breeding sites. While migrating they pass through long lakeshores, barrier islands, mountain ranges, and sea coasts.

Peregrine Falcon Lifecycle

Peregrine Falcons lay about 2-6 eggs per clutch. They lay each egg in an interval of 48 hours. The eggs are about 2 inches long and have a width between 1.6-1.9 inches. They are a pale creamy brown color, and have purple dots, brown, or red spots.

Following an incubation period of 29-32 days, helpless nestlings weighing about 1.5 ounces are born. Nestlings learn to fly about 35-42 days after hatching. Young female Falcons reach sexual maturity when they turn 3 years old, which is also the time they begin to search for mates. Males take slightly longer to develop sexual maturity.

Generally, these birds raise about only one clutch per year, but in certain cases, they raise more than one clutch annually. Unfortunately, 40% of the younglings die before they turn 1 year old. In contrast, adult Peregrine Falcons have a 70% survival rate.


If the Peregrine Falcons arriving at the nesting spot are migratory, then the males usually arrive before the females. Before choosing the right spot, males might make scrapes on a number of ledges. Females decide the final spot for egg-laying.

Unless it becomes necessary to shift, these birds nest in the same spot for years. Most nesting sites are located in elevations 16-650 feet off the ground.

Most Peregrine Falcons breed in the period between March and May. The time period might change depending on how far north the resident populations live. They lay eggs in mid-May, and they hatch by around mid-June.

Scrapes are small depressions in dirt or sand, which are ideally nesting spots for these birds. They line these spots with fine materials. Sometimes, they might choose nests made by other birds. Females begin to breed before males.

Anatomy of a Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcons are Crow-sized birds, considered medium-large sized in comparison to other Falcons. Their wings are long and tapered, and their tails are slim and short. In terms of size, they can often be confused with Gyrfalcons and Prairie Falcons.

Although experienced birders can correctly identify Peregrine Falcons by observing their smaller size, and their wings which are narrower, and pointed at the bottom. Also, when they are perched their wings almost reach the end of their tail.

Final Thoughts

Peregrine Falcons are genuinely very impressive birds that are clearly one of the best birds of prey in the world. It’s extraordinary that these birds can reach speeds up to 240 mph, and theoretically even kill humans on collision.

These remarkable birds are capable of wreaking havoc on the animals in their surroundings, and are quite adaptable in terms of habitat. As a result of all this, their populations seem to keep increasing.


Bird Watching Academy & Camp Subscription Boxes

At the Bird Watching Academy & Camp we help kids, youth, and adults get excited and involved in bird watching. We have several monthly subscription boxes that you can subscribe to. Our monthly subscription boxes help kids, youth, and adults learn about birds, bird watching, and bird conservation.

Bird Watching Binoculars for IdentifyingPeregrine Falcons

The most common types of bird watching binoculars for viewing Peregrine Falcons are 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. Bird Watching Academy & Camp sells really nice 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. You can view and purchase them here.

Peregrine Falcon Iron On Patches

Kids, Youth, and Adults love to collect our Bird Watching Academy & Camp iron on patches. Our bird watching patches help you keep track of the birds you have seen an identified. You can also display the patches on our Bird Watching Academy & Camp banners.

The Peregrine Falcon is a great iron on patch to start your collection with. The patches are durable and can be sewn on or ironed on to just about anything.

Peregrine Falcon Stickers

Stickers are a great way for you to display your love for bird watching and the Peregrine Falcon. We sell a monthly subscription sticker pack. The sticker packs have 12 bird stickers. These sticker packs will help your kids learn new birds every month.

Bird Feeders For Peregrine Falcons

There are many types of bird feeders. Bird feeders are a great addition to your backyard. Bird feeders will increase the chances of attracting birds drastically. Both kids and adults will have a great time watching birds eat at these bird feeders. There are a wide variety of bird feeders on the market and it is important to find the best fit for you and your backyard.

Bird HousesFor Peregrine Falcons

There are many types of bird houses. Building a bird house is always fun but can be frustrating. Getting a bird house for kids to watch birds grow is always fun. If you spend a little extra money on bird houses, it will be well worth every penny and they’ll look great.

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