Peregrine Falcon



Common Name
Peregrine Falcon
Falco peregrinus


Stocky build, similar in size to an American crow; long pointed wings; gray to blue crown and back of neck, or nape, give a hooded appearance; dark sideburns, also called mustache; gray feathers on back; white with blue splotches, or barring, on abdomen and under wings; white throat and breast; back edge of tail is straight; yellow feet, legs, beak, and eye ring; hooked beak for tearing flesh, with unique notch for severing spinal cord of prey; large feet with sharp claws (talons) for holding on to prey; females are one-third larger than males; immature peregrines have brown feathers on back, gray feet and legs; blue beak and eye ring
15 – 20 in. (38.1 – 50.8 cm) long; 36 – 45 in. (91.44 – 114.3 cm) wingspan; 1.6 – 2 lbs. (725.7 – 907.2 g) weight
Ecological Role
The peregrine falcon is a meat eater, or carnivore, and a predator at the top of the food chain with few enemies. This bird of prey hunts in mid-air as well as from the perched position. It prefers to prey on other birds, eating the breast meat first. Great horned owls are predators of peregrine young. Raccoons and red-tailed hawks sometimes eat the eggs.
Fun Facts
  • The peregrine falcon is a streamlined, high-speed flyer with superior eyesight. Capable of vertical dives of 200 miles per hour, peregrines are considered the fastest animals on earth. Male peregrine falcons hunt prey about the same size as themselves and sometimeseven larger such as ducks. Peregrines were once known as the duck hawk. The word peregrine is Latin for “wanderer”.
  • Peregrine falcons are found on all continents except Antarctica. There are 17 subspecies of peregrine falcons and three are found in North America. A small tree nesting population, now extinct, once nested in the swamplands of western Kentucky. Peregrines predominantly used forested habitats in Kentucky prior to their decline. Kentucky Department of Fish and wildlife began a peregrine reintroduction program in 1993. Peregrine falcons have been released in downtown Lexington and around power plants in Kentucky. The peregrine falcon is protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. It is illegal to kill or possess any part of a peregrine falcon.
Medium sized birds, such as pigeons and starlings in urban areas; songbirds such as blue jays, eastern meadowlarks, common grackles, northern flickers, brown headed cowbirds, and red-winged blackbirds; occasionally a duck
Built in late March through early April; female makes shallow depression, called scrape, in rock or gravel on face of cliff having little or no vegetation; no nesting material is collected; nest site is called an eyrie; since restoration, majority of nesting activity in Kentucky has occurred in urban areas; usually return to their birth area (fledging site) to nest
February – early March; usually one mate chosen for life, or monogamous; return to same nest site year after year; males arrive at nesting area first and defend territory; courtship involves high dives and aerial chases by both male and female, as well as a high circular flight pattern by male 
3 – 4 eggs; pinkish colored with red spots; female sits on nest with some help from male; hatch in 30 – 35 days 
Along rivers and lakes where cliffs dominate the landscape; cliffs used for nesting are usually steep and rocky with an eastern or northeastern exposure; falcons utilize open habitats for foraging, such as weedy fields, waterways, and wetlands; its adaptability allows the peregrine to inhabit urban dwellings and nest in man-made structures
Kentucky Distribution
Urban areas along the Ohio River
Life Cycle
Life Span
Life Stage
Seasonal Changes
Peregrine falcons in Kentucky do not migrate; peregrines that live in northern states do migrate because of more extreme winter conditions.
Delisted from the Federally Threatened and Endangered Species list and monitored by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as of August 25, 1999
High pitched cack – cack – cack if nest is threatened, wichew calls during breeding 
Covered with white down feathers; large feet; weigh 2 ounces (56.7 g); juvenile feathers appear in 3 weeks; ready to fly in 5 – 6 weeks after hatching; usually males fly sooner than females; nestlings are called eyases; both male and female care for young; can reproduce in 2 – 3 years; live 6 – 8 years; only about 30 percent survive each year due to weather, disease, and accidents
What We Can Do
Reduce pesticide and chemical use. Peregrine falcons are at the top of the food chain and, therefore, susceptible to bioaccumulation. This means the pesticides in the food source build up in the falcon’s body, affecting the nesting success. The pesticide DDT caused the peregrine falcon population to decline in the 60’s and 70’s. DDT accumulates in the body of the falcon and causes the eggshell to become fragile enough to crack when the parent bird sits on the egg. The pesticide DDT is now outlawed in the United States.
Diagnosis and Control
Interesting Facts
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