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Peregrine Falcon

From Opus

F. p. peregrinus with preyPhoto by Colin PassUK, April 2013
F. p. peregrinus with prey
Photo by Colin Pass
UK, April 2013
Falco peregrinus

Includes Cape Verde Peregrine Falcon and Barbary Falcon


[edit] Identification

F. p. macropusPhoto by RMDNhulunbuy Northern Territory, Australia
F. p. macropus
Photo by RMD
Nhulunbuy Northern Territory, Australia

A large, powerful falcon, 34-50 cm (13½-19¾ in) long, 80-120 cm wingspan, and 550-1,500 g weight.

  • Thick, black moustachial stripe and hood
  • Sides of neck white
  • Hooked blue/gray bill
  • Yellow eye-ring

Adult male Slate grey to blackish above; buff barred darker below. Adult female similar but can be browner. Cere, legs and area around the eyes is yellow
Juvenile: dark brown above , streaked below

[edit] Variations

The subspecies differ in size, mantle shade (mid-grey to nearly black), and head pattern, particularly the width of the moustachial stripe. In general, high latitude subspecies are larger and paler overall, and tropical subspecies smaller and nearly black above. F. p. peregrinator is strongly rusty-red on the breast and belly.

[edit] Distribution

Almost worldwide - the most widely distributed bird of any, absent only from New Zealand and polar regions. See taxonomy, below, for more detail by subspecies.

[edit] Taxonomy

Barbary Falcon (F. p. pelegrinoides)Photo by rashedKuwait
Barbary Falcon (F. p. pelegrinoides)
Photo by rashed

F. p. pelegrinoides (sometimes together with F. p. babylonicus) has been separated as Barbary Falcon. However, at the moment only Gill and Donsker accept this split.

[edit] Subspecies

Juvenile F. p. anatumPhoto by CurtMorganUpstate New York, USA, June 2009
Juvenile F. p. anatum
Photo by CurtMorgan
Upstate New York, USA, June 2009

19 subspecies are recognised[1]:

[edit] Habitat

Cliff faces for breeding, hunts over cultivated land and grassland, marshes and wetlands, beaches and the sea. Also increasingly using urban areas to nest/breed on buildings.

[edit] Behaviour

[edit] Flight

Subspecies cassiniPhoto by Luis RParcela Araguaney. Santiago de Chile, Chile, January 2017
Subspecies cassini
Photo by Luis R
Parcela Araguaney. Santiago de Chile, Chile, January 2017

Takes prey mainly in the air, using height advantage to gain speed. Typically employs a high speed steep dive (stoop), where reported speeds exceed 200 km/h. Uses the long, 'elasticated' hind toe to hit the bird without injuring itself; the impact of this often kills the prey outright. Also pursues prey such as Feral Pigeon/Rock Dove in flight using speed from a dive and rapid jinking manoeuvering. Only rarely takes prey on the ground or in water.

[edit] Diet

The diet includes a wide range of birds, such as doves, waterfowl and songbirds, including birds as large as Great Black-backed Gull and Brant Goose, up to 2 kg weight. Occasionally hunts small mammals, including bats, rats, voles and rabbits. Insects and reptiles make up a relatively small proportion of their diet. Exceptionally, Peregrine Falcons have been known to eat their own chicks when starving.

[edit] Breeding

A scrape on a cliff ledge is made and 3-4 eggs are laid. The females incubate the eggs for 29-32 days. Chicks fledge 35-42 days after hatching. It is increasingly using urban high-rise buildings and churches for nest/breeding sites, to prey largely on Feral Pigeons.

[edit] Movements

Most of the subspecies are resident, but F. p. calidus and F. p. tundrius migrate long distances south to avoid the arctic winters experienced in their breeding ranges.

[edit] Vocalisation

Listen in an external program

[edit] References

  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2017. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2017, with updates to August 2017. Downloaded from
  2. Del Hoyo, J, A Elliot, and J Sargatal, eds. 1994. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 2: New World Vultures to Guineafowl. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. ISBN 978-8487334153
  3. Collins Pocket Guide to British Birds 1966

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