The Peregrine falcon is an amazing bird! Falcons look similar to hawks except for minor differences. The wings of a falcon are longer and curve at the back, ending in a point. You can also distinguish a falcon from a hawk by the falcon's dark eyes.
The scientific name for the peregrine falcon is Falco peregrinus. The name peregrine is Latin for wanderer. Peregrines got their name because peregrines often migrate long distances when the winter season comes. There are three subspecies or color variants of the peregrine falcon in North America. The subspecies include the American or Continental (anatus), Arctic (tundrius), and Peale's (pealei). The anatus falcon is the most endangered, followed by the tundrius.
The Peregrine falcon is a raptor, or bird of prey. This means it is a predator. Predators have an important role in the food chain, keeping prey animals in balance with natural resources. If no predators exist, prey will overpopulate their habitat and run out of food. Then the prey is in danger of starving.
The peregrine falcon eats a variety of animals. It eats mostly birds, but will eat bats and rodents. The peregrine's favorite food are pigeons and ducks. Peregrines hunt by mostly chasing their prey in the air. Animals being chased by a peregrine falcon have a 66% chance of escaping. The peregrines chase and swoop down at their prey at over 200 miles an hour, they squash their prey with their massive talons or stun it by colliding in midair. The falcon then quickly kills the prey by biting it's throat. Young falcons who are just learning to hunt may chase and eat dragonflies and other large insects.
To watch a 1.4MB mpeg video of a peregrine falcon eating a quail, click here. Warning, gross-out alert!!!
Peregrine mates mostly stay together forever like humans do. The female is the dominant partner. The male arrives at the eyrie about a week before the female and shows off for her by fancy flying. The male partner scratches out a nest in the rock or gravel, where the female lays her brown, speckled eggs.The father sits on the eggs 25% of the day, and the mother sits on the eggs 75% of the day. While one parent stays with the eggs, the other parent looks for food. The parent that is looking for food stashes it near the nest so that no predators will take it from them. The female lays 3-4 eggs a year over the course of several days. The eggs have to be incubated for 33 days, and have to be turned over to develop properly. But sometimes if the egg breaks, one of the parents eat the inside of the egg, probably to keep the nest clean. Gross! When the incubating is done, the falcon eyases may take three days from the time they start to break out of the egg until they are fully hatched. When the hatchlings hatch they have a big appetite. Yum Yummy!! The mother falcon broods the chicks, keeping them warm with special hot spots on her body called brood patches until their body gets efficient at making heat at about one week old, while the father hunts for his mate and chicks. Once the chicks are big enough to be left alone a little, the mother helps hunt too. After 5-6 weeks the eyas are now fledgelings with their real feathers and are ready to fly. Fledgelings know how to fly with out being taught. Parent peregrines bring food to the edge of the nest, so the eyases push and shove to get to it. Finally the eyas fly off the edge to get to the food. Even after they fledge, or leave the nest to fly for the first time, they stay with their parents for about 2 months learning to hunt. Immature falcons molt or lose their baby feathers and get their mature ones during their second spring when they are a little over a year old. Peregrine females grow larger then the males. The peregrine falcon has 12 different calls, all of which mean different things. To listen to our (470KB) recording of an arguement over food between two male peregrine falcons, click here.
Half of the population of peregrines die before they even reach their 1st birthday. If a peregrine survives all the dangers it can live up to 20 years. The reason most peregrines die before their first year is because of their enemies such as the great horned owl, foxes, raccoons and of course, humans.