Peregrine Falcon

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Is the Peregrine Falcon right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Duck Hawk, Tundra Falcon F. p. tundrius, Peale's Falcon F. p. pealei

Scientific name: Falco peregrinus

The basics:
The Peregrine Falcon is perhaps the ultimate symbol of speed and grace on the wing, and it's probably the species most people think of when they hear the word “falcon.” Agile, accurate, fast, and intelligent, this falcon has a long and honored history in falconry.

The aerodynamic Peregrine Falcon is a high performance bird. Just as a Porsche would not be recommended for a driver's first card, a Peregrine is not recommended for a falconer's first bird. Because of the licensing and expertise required to be a responsible owner of a bird of prey, the following information is offered only as a hint of what you will need to learn to work with them. There is no substitute for hands-on training, which we strongly recommend that you pursue before trying to acquire any bird of prey.

One of the world's most widespread birds, Peregrines are found on every continent except Antarctica, as well as many islands as different as Madagascar is from Bonaire. This fast, agile predator can stoop at high speed to catch flying birds on the wing. It has been clocked at 200 kilometers per hour (and some claims are considerably higher), making it possible for it to hit its prey hard enough to stun or even kill on impact. There are at least 16 subspecies and perhaps more. The three North American subspecies were almost wiped out in the mid 20th century, as a result of widespread use of DDT. The species was restored with the help of captive breeders.

A species that nests on cliffs, Peregrine Falcons that are left in peace will readily accept skyscrapers, water towers, or other manmade sites near human activity, where they may be seen doing their part to control local feral pigeon populations.

Peregrine Falcons are very long-winged, with an instantly recognizable face thanks to the broad “moustache” marks. Females can be substantially larger than males. The sizes given here are from a study of the Tundra Peregrine subspecies. Others are even larger.

Male: 580 grams (20.5 oz)
Female: 817 grams (29 oz.)

Average size:
Male: 39 centimeters (15 in.)
Female: 44 centimeters (17 in.)

15 - 19 years

Behavior / temperament:
Peregrine Falcons are highly regarded for their talent at “waiting on” -- meaning they can learn to go high and hold their position while waiting for the quarry to be flushed. You will most likely need to be working with a good dog to flush the game, so you can see that you need multiple skills to use this particular talent.

A good Peregrine Falcon pen, aviary, or mews will provide shade from direct sunlight in the summer, protection from extremes of winter weather, and good security to lock out thieves. A roof that completely covers the structure is stronger and offers more protection from high winds. Don't shortchange them on space just because they're smaller than the buteos, since their long wings mean they really need space to stretch out. Like most birds of prey, they will enjoy some clean, shallow water for bathing.

The Peregrine Falcon is a carnivore that needs to consume some whole prey in order to allow its digestive system to work properly. They are bird predators, and a diet high in bird items like day old chicks, quail, and pigeon is commonly offered. They should also be provided with water.

Written by Elaine Radford


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