Peregrine Falcon

Common Name: Peregrine Falcon

Class:  Aves

Order: Falconiformes

Family: Falconidae

Genus: Falco

Species: Falco peregrinus

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Taxonomy/Description

Peregrine Falcons belong to the Falconiformes order, and order that includes diurnal birds of prey.  Its name is derived from the Latin word for falcon, “falco” which comes from the word “falx” which means sickle, referring to the sickle shaped talons or shape of the falcon in flight.  The word “peregrinus” means “wandering” in Latin.  This refers to the Peregrine Falcon’s behavior of taking long flights over great distances and being found all throughout the world. 

Peregrine Falcons are large falcons who display sexual dimorphism in size.  In general, they have a body length of 34-50cm (13-20in) and wingspan of 80-120cm (31-47in).  Males have a body mass of 570-710g (20-25oz) and females 910-1500g (32-53oz).  This makes females around 30% larger than the males.  Peregrine Falcons are usually dark-grey to black in coloring with a lighter underside and black head with a “moustache” pattern around the cheeks.  They also have dark, clear stripes on the tail.

Habitat/Diet

Peregrine Falcons are one of the most widely distributed birds in the world.  They can live in tundra, deserts, and tropical areas.  They often live around mountain ranges and coastlines.  Peregrine Falcons have also come to be describes as a “cosmopolitan” animal, meaning that it can live in the city. 

The Peregrine Falcon’s diet consists mostly of birds such as starlings, pigeons, blackbirds, and jays that they hunt right out of the air.  They will also sometimes hunt waterfowl.

Behavior/Reproduction

Peregrine Falcons are migratory birds, and travel a remarkable long distance.  In North America, they have the longest migration of any bird of prey.  Generally, they are docile birds and due to this humans have been able to train them to use for hunting for centuries.  They hunt from the air, striking their prey in mid-flight.  Peregrine Falcons can dive up to speeds of 322km/h (200mph), making them the fastest creature on earth.  It is speculated that the force of impact from a Peregrine Falcon’s dive collapses the lungs of its prey, thereby killing it on impact. 

Peregrine Falcons are monogamous and reach maturity at the age of 2 or 3.  Courtship consists of aerial dives and spins between the male and female.  Nests can be found on cliff edges and tall buildings or bridges, and they are highly territorial over their nesting area.  The female lays three to four eggs that are incubated for29 to 33 days mostly by the female.  After hatching, the chicks remain in the nest for up to two months.

Where to see them in WNY

Look for cliff faces, where Peregrine Falcons often nest.  It is also possible to find Peregrine falcons in the metropolitan areas of Western New York.  There have been Peregrine Falcon nests found in both Buffalo and Rochester.  These nests have been used by the same pairs of falcons for a number of years. 

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