Peregrine Falcons

Two peregrine falcons on a rock outcropping

Peregrine falcons are a recovered endangered species in Yellowstone.

Tom Stanton

 

The peregrine falcon is among the fastest birds, flying at up to 55 mph and diving at more than 200 mph when striking avian prey in mid-air. Peregrine populations began to decline in the 1940s because of pesticide contamination. One of three North American subspecies, the peregrine in Greater Yellowstone (Falco peregrinus anatum) was considered extirpated by the 1970s. As part of a national reintroduction program, captive-bred peregrines were released in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks during the 1980s. They typically reside in Greater Yellowstone from March through October, when their favored prey—songbirds and waterfowl—are most abundant. During winter they migrate as far south as Mexico or farther. Learn More: Peregrine Falcon Information Continued...

 

Quick Facts

Number in Yellowstone

  • In 2014 park staff monitored 23 of the 36 known peregrine breeding territories. Not all territories are occupied annually and several are currently vacant.
  • The 27-year average nest success is 74%, while the average nest success for 2014 was 60%.
  • The 27-year average productivity is 1.62 young per breeding pair, while the 2014 average was 1.4 young per breeding pair.

Identification

  • Slightly smaller than a crow.
  • Black "helmet" and a black wedge below the eye.
  • Uniformly gray under its wings. (The prairie falcon, which also summers in Yellowstone, has black "armpits.")
  • Long tail, pointed wings.

Habitat

  • Near water, meadows, cliffs.
  • Nests on large cliffs over rivers or valleys where prey is abundant.

Behavior

  • Resident in the park March through October, when its prey—songbirds and waterfowl—are abundant.
  • Lays 3–4 eggs in late April to mid-May.
  • Young fledge in July or early August.
  • Dives at high speeds (can exceed 200 mph) to strike prey in mid-air.
 

More Information

References

The list below includes academic publications, government publications, management documents that inform the decision-making process at parks and protected areas, as well as links to websites that provide additional relevant information. The Yellowstone Resources and Issues Handbook, updated annually, is the book our rangers use to answer many basic park questions.

Annual Bird Program Reports. National Park Service, Yellowstone National Park.

Enderson, J.H.,R.J. Oakleaf, R.R. Rogers, J.S. Sumner. 2012. Nesting performance of peregrine falcons in Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming, 2005–2009. The Wilson Journal of Ornithology 124(1):127–132

White, C.M., N.J. Clum, T.J. Cade, and W. Grainger Hunt. Peregrine Falcon. The Birds of North America Online.

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