The Peregrine or the Peregrine Falcon, also known, historically known as, Duck Hawk, is the ‘world’s most widespread raptor’.
It is a large crow-sized falcon. The back and the long pointed wings, of the adult, are usually bluish-black to slate-grey The white to rusty under-parts are barred with clean bands of dark brow or black. The top of the head and a “moustache” along the cheeks are black, contrasting sharply with the pale sides of the neck and white throat. The ‘cere’ is yellow, as are the feet and the beak and the talons are black. The upper beak is ‘notched’ near the tip, an adaptation which enables falcons to kill prey by severing the spinal column at the neck. It has a body length of 34-58 cm and a wing span from 74-120 cm. The female is 30% larger than the male. Males weigh 330-1000gm and females weigh 513-1,500 gm.
Its breeding range includes land regions from the Arctic Tundra to the Tropics. It can be found nearly everywhere on Earth, except extreme polar regions, very high mountains and most tropical rainforests, the only major ice-free land mass, from which it is entirely absent, is New Zealand. This make sit the WORLD’S MOST WIDESPREAD RAPTOR.
The “courtship flight” includes a mix of aerial acrobatics precise spirals and steep dives.. The male passes prey, it has caught, to the female in ‘mid-air. To make this possible, the female actually flies ‘upside-down’ to receive the food from the male’s talons. During the breeding season, the peregrine falcon is territorial ; nesting pairs are usually more than 1 km apart. The peregrine falcon nests in a “scrape”, normally on cliff edges. The female chooses a nest site, where she “scrapes” a shallow hollow in the loose soil, sand, gravel or dead vegetation, in which she lays eggs, usually about 3 to 4. Cliff nests are generally located under an overhang, or ledges with vegetation. South-facing sites are favoured. In many parts of its range, peregrines now also nest regularly on tall buildings or bridges, these human-made structures, used for breeding, closely resemble the natural cliff ledges that the peregrine prefers for its nesting locations. The pair defends the chosen nest-site against ravens, herons and gulls, and, if ground-nesting, also mammals like foxes, wolves, bears and mountain lions (puma).
Peregrines, defending their nests, have managed to kill raptors as large as golden eagles and bald eagles, that have come too close to the nest by ambushing them in a ‘FULL STOOP’ (high speed dive). In one instance, when a snowy owl killed a newly-fledged peregrine, the larger owl was, in turn, killed by a STOOPING PEREGRINE PARENT.
The Peregrine Falcon is a highly admired ‘falconry’ bird, because of its athleticism and eagerness to hunt. It also has an equitable disposition and is one of the easier falcons to train. It has the additional advantage of a natural style of circling above the ‘falconer’ (waiting on) for game to be flushed, and then performing an effective and exciting high speed ‘diving stoop”, to take the quarry. The speed and energy of the “stoop” allows the falcon to catch fast-flying birds, and to deliver a “KNOCK-OUT” blow with a fist-like clenched talon against game that may be mush larger than itself.
While its diet consists exclusively of medium-sized birds, the peregrine will, occasionally, hunt small mammals, small reptiles or even insects. The Peregrine Falcon became an endangered species in many areas, because of the widespread use of insecticides, especially DDT. Since the ban on DDT, from the early 1970s , populations have recovered , supported by large-scale protection of nesting places and releases to the wild.
Both the English and scientific names of this species mean “WANDERING FALCON’. The Peregrine Falcon is the national bird of the UAE. Since 1927, it has been the official mascot of Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. It has been designated the official city bird of Chicago.