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Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

The Peregrine Falcon is the namesake for the inland Audubon group. David Allen Sibley calls this bird the embodiment of speed and power. I have been awestruck when seeing one speeding over the bluffs on bent wings.

Adults are recognized by their blue-gray back, barred lower chest and unique dark hood or helmet with a dark line coming down below the eye. They are year-round residents on the coast and in mountainous areas inland. Almost any child will tell you with authority that they are the fastest flyers. This refers to their spectacular dives on prey, usually medium-sized birds, which falconers call stooping. One Peregrine passed an airplane at one hundred and seventy-five miles per hour. They have been known to exceed two hundred miles per hour, but probably typically fly nearer one hundred miles per hour. They plunge from great height with bent wings; then with talons outstretched strike their target causing an explosion of feathers. The prey is usually retrieved on the ground but sometimes the falcon will stoop again and catch the tumbling bird in the air.

Their speed was of no help against the pesticide DDT from the 1940ís to 1970ís when breeding pairs in California plummeted from over 200 to only two pairs. Thankfully, the banning of the pesticide and a successful captive breeding program have steadily increased their numbers. Now they can be found nesting on window ledges in cities on both coasts, eating a steady diet of pigeons, and giving us inspiration and hope for all our endangered species.

First published December 2011 MCAS Black Oystercatcher
Peregrine Falcon photo courtesy of Ron LeValley