Peregrine Falcon

Falcon flying
Peregrine falcon with wings spread.

Ron Stewart, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

 

Scientific Name

Falco peregrinus

Identification

  • Peregrine falcons have a long tail and pointed wings. Their wingspan can reach up to 3.5 feet (1.1m). Females are larger than males
  • They have a blue-gray "helmet" on their heads that comes down past the eyes. The back is blue-grey and the underside is grey or tan and covered in dark bars.
  • Juveniles may have a more barred breast than adults.
  • Adults are smaller in size than a common raven (Corvus corax).
Habitat
  • "Peregrine" means "wanderer" and peregrine falcons have one of the longest migrations of any North American bird and are found on every continent except Antarctica.
  • In rural and wilderness areas, peregrine falcons make nests and roost on cliff faces, where they are protected from predators. In urban areas, they nest on skyscrapers and other tall structures.
  • The Grand Canyon is home to an estimated 100 pairs of peregrine falcons, which nest on the thousands of miles of cliffs within the park.
Behavior
  • Falcons are predators that feed on exclusively on other birds. Common prey include pigeons, ducks, songbirds, and even other falcons.
  • Peregrines hunt by soaring high in the sky, searching for prey. Once they find a target, they dive at their prey at incredibly high speeds- up to 200 mph (320 kph). They hit the wing of their prey to knock it out of the sky without harming the falcon.
  • While diving , peregrines use a special bone in their nostrils to guide airflow away from the nostrils, preventing the airflow from damaging their lungs.
  • Each breeding pair lays 3-4 eggs in the late spring. Young begin flying in mid-summer.
  • From 1970 until 1999, the peregrine falcon was listed as an endangered species in the United States. The pesticide DDT caused the eggs of peregrines and other birds of prey to develop very thin shells, so that they often broke before the chick hatched. By 1975, only 324 pairs of peregrine falcons remained in the United States. Thanks to careful conservation efforts- and the banning of DDT- peregrine populations have rebounded, and they are no longer an endangered species.
 

Last updated: May 18, 2016

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Mailing Address:

PO Box 129
Grand Canyon, AZ 86023

Phone:

(928) 638-7888

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