Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)

The Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) is a predatory bird that is 15 inches in length and has a wingspan of 40 inches. It is one of the larger falcons and has the typical short and hooked beak, as seen on many birds of prey. This falcon has pale coloring over its throat and breast, with a black colored cap and a black ‘mustache’. These markings are in direct contrast to its white face. Its upper body parts are gray, black and white barred plumage under the wings and barred belly. White and gray bands are noticeable on the thin tail. Both sexes are similar in appearance, with the female being larger.

The Peregrine Falcon is one the most commonly found birds of prey, located across most of the continents, with the exception of oceanic islands and the continent of Antarctica. This predatory bird is an extremely powerful and agile falcon. It preys on small birds, ducks, bats and smaller mammals. The Peregrine Falcon has a record-setting flight ability and is able to swoop down on prey at 320 kilometers an hour, in a drop. It can chase its prey at speeds of 112 kilometers an hour. Although the falcon is capable of these spectacular speeds, it usually averages 40 to 55 kilometers an hour during flight. Its strong flying ability is also demonstrated by its migration, when some birds have been recorded to have traveled over 25 000 kilometers.

During the breeding season, the Peregrine Falcon will construct its nest on sea cliffs, rock faces or quarries. If the falcon is located in cities or towns, it will choose a high building for nesting. Falcons mate for life and will more than often return to the same breeding site each year. Their acrobatic maneuvers, deep dives and breathtaking spirals that are done in mid air as part of their courtship, is an amazing sight. The female will lay two to five eggs that are reddish brown in color and have dark spots. Both the male and female will take part in the 29 to 32 day incubation period. After the chicks have hatched, the female will remain in the nest to protect her chicks, while the male hunts. It generally takes 35 to 42 days for the chicks to fledge the nest, after which they will remain close by, until they have perfected their flying and hunting techniques.

The Peregrine Falcon bordered on the fringes of extinction due to pesticides, egg collectors, and the persecution of landowners. Fortunately, the crisis has been averted by the protection and control of pesticide usage, and breeding programs that have been able to release the falcons back into the wild thus increasing the population.