Falconiformes (diurnal birds of prey)
HABITAT AND RANGE
Peregrine falcons are found worldwide, except for rainforests and cold, dry Arctic regions. Peregrine Falcons prefer open habitats such as grasslands, tundra, and meadows. They nest on cliff faces and crevices. They have recently begun to colonize urban areas because tall buildings are suitable for nesting in this species, and because of the abundance of pigeons as prey items.
There are 17 regional types of peregrine falcon worldwide. They vary considerably in size and color. Like all falcons, peregrine falcons have long, tapered wings and a slim, short tail. They are 15-20” long, have a wingspan of 38-46”. Males weigh 1.5 lbs and females weigh 2-3 lbs.
Peregrine falcons prey almost exclusively on other birds such as pigeons, ducks, kestrels, jays and crows. They hunt by flying above their prey then diving onto a flock of birds striking the back of their intended prey breaking the spine. They sometimes catch their prey midair but will otherwise retrieve it from the ground. Their narrow pointed wings allow them to change direction easily at high speed.
REPRODUCTION AND LIFESPAN
During courtship, a mated pair will hunt and roost together. They do not build their own nests. They will often occupy hawk and eagle nests, tree hollows or shelves on high cliffs. Eggs are laid between March and June (usually 2-4). Eggs are incubated by both sexes for 28-35 days. The young can fly 35-42 days after hatching. Sexual maturity is reached after about 3 years and lifespan in the wild is 15-20 years.
During normal flight, peregrine falcons can reach speeds of 30-60 mph. While diving, however, they have been clocked at speeds of up to 180 mph. This earns them the title of the world’s fastest animal. By the early 1970s, the entire North American population of peregrine falcons was limited to Canada, Alaska and Baja California due to pesticides such as DDT. Captive breeding allowed the species to avoid extinction that was expected in the 1980s.