Lake Milton Raptor Center

Peregrine Falcon

Falco peregrinus

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  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Falconiformes
  • Family: Falconidae
  • Genus: Falco
  • Species: Falco peregrinus
  • Geographic Range

    Peregrine falcons are found worldwide, except for rainforests and cold, dry Arctic regions.


    Tundra, savanna, seacoasts, mountains, and tall buildings are home to the peregrine falcon (except rainforests and frigid arctic regions).

    Physical Description

    17 races, varying considerably in size and color. Like all falcons, peregrines have tapered wings and a slim, short tail.


    The peregrine generally lays two to six eggs, usually in a nest high on cliffs or tall buildings. Falcons often use nests that were built by other birds. Like all birds, falcons pass through 4 distinct periods in their life cycle:

    Nestling - from hatching to first flight.
    Fledgling - bird is able to fly, but parents still catch food.
    Juvenile - bird leaves nest to be on its own.
    Adult - sexual maturity.


    Females incubate the eggs with some help from the male. Both parents care for the young. 2-6 eggs are laid in a clutch.

    Food Habits

    Peregrine falcons prey almost exclusively on birds (doves, pigeons, shorebirds, waterfowl, passerines, etc), although they will also eat small "reptiles" (such as lizards) and mammals. Although the peregrine captures its prey with its claws, it generally kills its prey with its beak.

    Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

    Birds of prey are sometimes accused of killing farm animals, such as chickens. The numbers of farm animals killed by birds of prey is of minor economic consequence when compared to their contributions to pest control.

    Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

    Peregrine falcons (and predatory birds in general) are a great asset to many farmers, killing millions of crop-destroying vertebrates and insects.

    Conservation Status

    The peregrine falcon has suffered due to its precarious position atop the food chain. Pesticides accumulate in small (not lethal) quantities in the tissues of small birds and mammals, but become concentrated enough in predatory birds such as falcons to kill them or render them incapable of producing offspring. Organochlorine pesticides (DDT & dieldrin) have been proven to reduce the birds' ability to produce eggshells with sufficient calcium content, making the egg shells thin and prone to breakage.

    The peregrine population declined greatly in the middle of the 20th century, and it was threatened worldwide by the increasing use of pesticides. All breeding pairs vanished in the Eastern U.S. A successful captive breeding/reintroduction program, combined with restrictions in pesticide use, has been the basis of an amazing recovery by the peregrine.

    Other Comments

    The peregrine falcon is perhaps the fastest animal on earth. In a stoop, or dive, the peregrine has been clocked at speeds of over 180 miles per hour.

    Because of their fantastic agility and capability for high speeds, the peregrine has been the favorite choice of falconers, who train falcons to hunt other birds.