The peregrine falcon is the quickest animal in the world. Although they typically fly at speeds around around 40 - 55 MPH, which is slower then many birds and several mammals, they can hit speeds in excess of 200 MPH when hunting. Peregrines are bird eaters that frequently hunt by flying higher then other birds, over .6 miles and then dropping down on their prey in a dive called a stoop. In their stoop they can hit speed over 200 MPH with the fastest speed ever measured hitting 242 MPH. The peregrine has special adaptations that help it to fly at high speeds. The pointed shape of their wings makes them very aerodynamic. The also have posts in their nostrils, called nare baffles, that help to equalize the extreme air pressure associated with diving at these high speeds.
Peregrines are a world wide species that is found on every continent except Antarctica. The word peregrine means "wanderer" and they have earned this name because peregrines that nest in the tundra will often migrate over 7,500 miles to winter in South America or southern Asia. Peregrines living in more temperate climates typically stay on territory all year long, particularly the males. Their preferred habitat is areas around rocky cliffs where they nest. The nest is a depression called a scrape. The scrape is made by the female, who uses her talon to cut a depression on a cliff ledge about 2 " deep.
In the 1950's and 60's the Peregrine falcons population fell to disastrous levels. Peregrines, along with numerous other species had suffered from DDT poisoning. DDT was a widely used insecticide that was passed up to the peregrine through insect eating prey birds. DDT did not affect the adult bird but it made their egg shells very thin, so that most eggs broke during incubation. Very few peregrines hatched and as the adults died through more natural means the population began to plummet. By the time that DDT was banned in the US, in 1972 peregrines had been extirpated from most of the eastern half of North America and were placed on the Endangered Species List. In the 1980's several groups, including the Peregrine Fund in the Eastern US, and the Midwest Peregrine Foundation in the middle of the US, began releasing young peregrines back into the wild. The eggs from these birds came from falconers and the young were placed in hack boxes until they fledged. Many hack boxes were located on tall building in cities and as the peregrine population began to rebound many were replaced with nest boxes. These additional nest boxes were placed on Buildings, bridges, smoke stacks and other man made structures and it provided the peregrines more nesting habitat in areas where their are not a lot of cliffs. The pigeon population in the cities also helped, provided the peregrines with abundant prey. The peregrine was taken off the Endangered Species List in 1999 and today they are thriving in many areas.
I always like these posts you write about all kind of birds. Thank you!
Wil, ABCW Team.
There's a retired professor at my alma mater, who is an expert on these birds, named Heinz Meng.
What wonderful close shots you managed to get of this bird of prey and thanks for info.
I live in farm country. I woke up one cold-yet-sunny morning and opened the blinds, only to see one of these out on the balcony, sitting on the railing, bunched tight but soaking up the sun. At first I thought there was something wrong (a sparrow had died recently on our balcony) and opened the door. One eye opened and stared at me. And I slowly closed the door and backed off.
Stunning in flight images. What a bird. Great post
You did well to catch this. Superbly detailed shots. Seen on Wild Bird Wednesday
Great post, great shots!
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