Peregrine falcon

Species profile

Name: the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) is a widespread bird of prey that is famous for being the fastest animal in the world.

Appearance: peregrines have long pointed wings. Their upper parts are usually a grey to blue-black colour, while their chests are striped. Younger birds are much browner. They have a notch at the tips of their beaks which allows them to sever the necks of their prey.

Size: they weigh around 800 grams and have a wingspan up to 1.2 metres. Females tend to be significantly larger than males.

Diet: peregrines feed almost exclusively on medium-sized birds such as pigeons and doves, waterfowl, songbirds, and waders. Worldwide, it’s estimated that up to 2,000 bird species (roughly a fifth of the world’s birds) are predated somewhere by these falcons!

Did you know: the peregrine falcon is the fastest bird in the world and the fastest member of the animal kingdom. According to National Geographic, the highest measured speed of a peregrine falcon is an incredible 389 km per hour! They reach these speeds by soaring to a great height then diving steeply towards their prey. The air pressure from such dives could damage their lungs, however, they have special tubes on their nostrils to divert the airflow and allow them to breathe under high pressure. To protect their eyes, peregrines have a third eyelid which spreads tears and clears debris from their eyes during a dive.

Location: peregrines can be found nearly everywhere on Earth, except for the extreme polar regions, very high mountains, and most tropical rainforests. Peregrines even adapt easily to urban areas, taking advantage of tall buildings as nest sites and the abundance of prey such as pigeons and ducks. This makes them one of the most widely found birds in the world. In fact, the only land-based bird species found over a larger area is the pigeon, which supports many peregrine populations as a key source of food!

Where to see peregrine falcons

According to reports submitted to WildSide, you can see peregrine falcons in the following places:

Place Chance to see User rating No. reports
Brookmill Park
Forest of Dean
very low
very good

Photo credit: Hari K Patibanda under a Creative Commons licence from Flickr

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