Birds – The Peregrine Falcon

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The peregrine falcon is the best known falcon and most widespread in the world. However if you travel to North Dakota, you won’t see many and you will not find any at all in Antarctica.

This falcon was on the endangered species list back in 1970 because of a problem with egg shell thinning that was caused mainly by use of the pesticide DDT during the 1950s and 60s. It took biologists 20 years to figure out that the pesticide used to protect plants from insects was the problem affecting these birds and other animals. Small animals ate the plants contaminated with the pesticide, and when the peregrine falcon hunted those animals, the infected flesh poisoned them. The chemical even changed the behavior of peregrine falcons in that it made them stop caring for their young.

The federal government banned the use of DDT in the United States; however, the recovery process took a while because the chemical residue remained in the environment. Other countries which are home to peregrine falcons still use DDT, and that, along with trapping and shooting by poachers, still cause the bird’s population to decrease. Today the endangered list still includes the peregrine falcon, and they are gradually increasing in population.

The peregrine falcon is not a very large bird; it is about the size of a crow. It is identifiable by its dark blue to slate colored back and its white throat. It also has a black teardrop right under its eye, and small black sideburns.

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Peregrine falcons hunt at dawn and dusk; they will prey on ducks, pigeons, other birds and small mammals. They search for their prey from the air, and when they spot something to eat, they attack, making a sharp loud territorial call. They will swoop down at an incredible speed, up to 200 miles per hour, which makes this the fastest creature on earth. When they target their prey falcons use their talons to strike a severe blow to the creature to eat on the spot or to carry away to their eyrie.

Peregrine falcons are normally cliff dwellers which build their nests far out of reach of people. However, you can find some in cities on top of high buildings. Researchers who study these birds help them with city nesting; they supply certain buildings with leaves and other materials which the falcons can use.

The peregrine falcon can be found all over the world. Just look out for a bird the size of a crow with dark sideburns, yellow legs and pointed wings when in flight. Hunting permitted with a camera only.

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