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Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus


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Peregrine Falcon, adult
credit:  Carl Mueller/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Falconidae, Falcons view all from this family

Description ADULT Tundra race (ssp. tundrius) has dark blue-gray upperparts and pale, barred underparts. Note the dark facial mask (dark "mustache" extends well behind eye and borders white cheek) and powerful, yellow legs and feet. In flight, from above, looks rather uniform; from below, pale underparts are barred, and contrast between pale cheeks and throat, and dark "mustache" is usually striking. Interior ssp. anatum is similar, but underparts are flushed peachy buff. Pacific race (sometimes released in east, outside its normal range) is similar, but pale elements of underparts are flushed buff, and dark on head is more extensive (white on cheek is reduced). JUVENILE Similar to adult, but upperparts are brownish while paler underparts are suffused with buff.

Dimensions Length: 15-21" (38-53 cm); Wngspn: 3' 4" (1 m)

Habitat Once widespread in open habitats, pesticides decimated interior populations in 1960s by thinning eggshells. Reintroduction program is aiding recovery here. Tundra populations, less affected by pollution (except in winter), remain stable and these birds winter further south and are those most usually to be seen in coastal east. Many large towns and cities in east also have resident, breeding pairs.

Observation Tips Panic attacks in winter flocks of waders and ducks may mean that a hunting Peregrine is nearby.

Range Florida, Southwest, California, New England, Western Canada, Alaska, Great Lakes, Southeast, Rocky Mountains, Northwest, Eastern Canada, Texas, Plains, Mid-Atlantic

Voice Utters a loud kek-kek-kekÖ call.

Discussion Robust and stocky falcon. Soars on broad, bowed wings, but stoops at phenomenal speed with wings swept back after prey, such as pigeons. Often perches for long periods on clifftop outcrops or manmade structures, such as pylons or tall buildings. In flight, long, broad-based and pointed wings, stocky body, and long tail are good features. Striking head pattern and contrast between dark upperparts and paler, well-marked underparts are useful in identifying perched birds. Geographical variation in plumage confuses matters but, given this, sexes are similar, although female is appreciably larger than male.