Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)

Description
Peregrine Falcon

Size

  • The peregrine is a large falcon, about 45 centimetres (18 inches) long.

Appearance

  • Peregrine falcons are slim birds with relatively large heads and long, thin, pointed wings that almost reach the tip of the tail when the birds are at rest.
  • In flight, falcons hold their wings slightly bent at the wrist as they fly with shallow, rapid wingbeats. All falcons have a small, tooth-like projection behind the hooked tip of the upper bill.
  • Identified by a heavy black moustache patch and a dark crown, hind neck and face.
  • Back, wings and tail are grey-blue.
  • Throat and upper breast are a creamy white, changing to a pink buff color with black markings on the lower breast and abdomen.
Distribution
  • IIn North America the peregrine falcon breeds in an area extending from Alaska to Baffin Island and south to South America. Winters are spent in the southern portion of the range.
  • In Alberta, peregrines have been known to nest in most natural regions having suitable nest sites in northern, central and western portions of the province.
Natural History

Habitat

  • IIn rural areas, peregrine falcons typically nest on cliffs close to riparian or marsh habitats.
  • although cliffs provide traditional nesting sites for peregrine falcons, a substantial proportion of the North American population (including Alberta) now nests on buildings and other man-made structures in urban areas.

Food

  • Peregrine falcons eat a wide variety of prey, including:
    • Grebes
    • Gulls
    • Small songbirds
    • Small rodents
    • Insects
  • When hunting, peregrines can take birds up to the size of pigeons on the wing.

When Active

  • In Alberta, peregrines are active from mid-to-late April until they migrate south for the winter anytime from late August to October.
Reproduction and Growth

Breeding Behavior

  • PPeregrine falcons arrive on the breeding grounds in Alberta around mid-April, although the exact timing varies in different areas and for different pairs.
  • Once on territory, a pair will carry out courtship rituals (mutual roosting, cooperative hunting excursions, courtship flights and feedings) before copulation, nest selection, and scraping are initiated.
  • Often, nests are simply a shallow scrape in dirt or sand on a cliff ledge or building usually overlooking a body of water. Three to six reddish brown eggs are laid in these shallow depressions.
  • Incubation is performed by both sexes, but most frequently by the female. The male does the majority of hunting to feed the pair while the female incubates.
  • Incubation lasts anywhere from 30 to 36 days, and hatching occurs around the middle of June in Alberta. /li>

Appearance of young

  • Immature peregrine falcons generally are brown where the adults are blue/grey.
  • Underparts are heavily streaked vertically with brown.
  • Tail is dark brown with narrow pale brown bars or spots. The underside of the tail is tipped with buffy white.

Growth process

  • Young peregrines are capable of flight at about 40 days of age, but remain dependent on adults for food for an additional 25 to 30 days.
  • Peregrines mature at two or three years of age.
Conservation and Management

Status

The peregrine falcon is classified as At Risk in the current General Status of Alberta Wild Species report. See the Status of the Peregrine Falcon in Alberta report at:

This bird species is also listed as Threatened under the Wildlife Act. See the Species at Risk profile for this species at:

Issues

  • There are 50 to 60 breeding pairs in Alberta.
  • Declining pesticide residues in prey species are helping recovery.
  • Populations have recently recovered somewhat from near-extinct levels.

Current management

As a Threatened species, the peregrine falcon is protected by the provincial Wildlife Act. It has been the subject of recovery in Alberta since 1975; a program to reintroduce captive raised peregrines to the wild ended in 1996, as numbers of wild birds were increasing.

The peregrine falcon is probably the fastest and most skilful flier of all birds and consequently for centuries has been highly regarded for falconry. The peregrine in a dive may attain speeds over 300 kilometres per hour (190 miles per hour).

 

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Posted: Oct 14, 2009