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Peregrine Falcon - BirdForum Opus

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F. p. peregrinus with prey
Photo © by Colin Pass
UK, 6 April 2013
Falco peregrinus

Includes Barbary Falcon, Cape Verde Peregrine Falcon, and Shaheen Falcon


A large, powerful falcon, 34-50 cm (13½-19¾ in) long, 80-120 cm wingspan, and 450-1,500 g weight.

  • Thick, black moustachial stripe and hood
  • Sides of neck white
  • Hooked blue/grey bill with yellow cere
  • Yellow eye-ring and feet

Adult male slate grey to blackish above; buff barred darker below. Smaller; weight [350]-450-750 g.
Adult female similar plumage but can be browner. Larger; weight [600]-920-1500 g.
Juvenile: dark brown above, streaked below; cere, eye ring and feet greyish


F. p. macropus
Photo © by Richard Mc Donald
Nhulunbuy Northern Territory, Australia, 8 March 2005

Marked, in size, mantle shade (mid-grey to nearly black), and head pattern, particularly the width of the moustachial stripe; in general, high latitude subspecies are larger and paler overall, and low latitude birds small (following Bergmann's rule), while dry climate subspecies are pale, and humid climate subspecies darker, to nearly black above (following Gloger's rule). See Subspecies below for more details.


Subspecies F. p. calidus
Photo © by Alok Tewari
Gurgaon Rural, Haryana, India, 26 February 2018

Almost worldwide - the most widely distributed bird of any, absent only from New Zealand and polar regions. See taxonomy, below, for more detail by subspecies.

Large areas of Europe and North America lost all or almost all of their Peregrine Falcons for a period in the late 20th century due to combinations of poisoning by persistent toxic pesticides like DDT and illegal persecution; following restrictions on persistent pesticides, reintroduction and natural recovery has allowed populations to recover in most areas, but illegal persecution remains a serious limiting factor in some areas, notably in upland Britain.

Capture of birds for falconry use has also caused losses in some areas. Conversely, the adoption of tall buildings for nest sites has allowed Peregrine Falcons to expand into urban habitats, often in areas which lacked any natural nest sites.


F. p. pelegrinoides (sometimes together with F. p. babylonicus) has been separated as Barbary Falcon.


Juvenile F. p. anatum
Photo © by Curt Morgan
Upstate New York, USA, 21 June 2009
Subspecies cassini
Photo © by Luis R
Parcela Araguaney. Santiago de Chile, Chile, 9 January 2017

19 subspecies are currently recognised[2]:

  • F. p. anatum
  • F. p. tundrius
  • F. p. calidus
  • Tundra of Eurasia (Lapland to northeast Siberia). Very large, pale.
  • F. p. pealei
  • Coastal western North America (Aleutian Islands to Washington). Large, dark.
  • F. p. cassini
  • F. p. japonensis
  • F. p. furuitii
  • On the Volcano Islands and Bonin Islands east of Japan.
  • F. p. peregrinus
  • Northern Eurasia (south of the tundra). Fairly large (male 580-750 g, female 920-1300 g); slate grey above, grey barred below with variable buff wash on breast.
  • F. p. brookei
  • Mediterranean basin east to the Caucasus Mountains. Smaller than nominate (male 445 g, female 800-920 g); plumage similar but with slightly darker breast.
  • F. p. pelegrinoides - Barbary Falcon
  • Canary Islands and north Africa (Morocco) to west Iran. Small (male 330-400 g, female 500-850 g, only about half the weight of F. p. calidus); pale, with narrower moustachial stripe, forecrown black, rear crown rusty red-brown, whitish breast weakly barred with brown bars, mantle mid to pale grey.
  • F. p. babylonicus - Barbary Falcon
  • Eastern Iran to Mongolia. Small; very pale, with weak moustachial stripe, forecrown grey, rear crown orangey-brown, whitish breast, and pale grey mantle.
  • F. p. madens
  • F. p. minor
  • F. p. radama
  • F. p. peregrinator - Shaheen Falcon
  • F. p. ernesti
  • F. p. nesiotes
  • F. p. macropus
  • Australia (except for southwestern part). Fairly small; extensive hood with very broad moustachial stripe joining rear crown; dark grey mantle, underparts barred black on buff.
  • F. p. submelanogenys
  • Southwestern Australia. Included in F. p. macropus by some authorities, and very similar to it[1].


Juvenile, subspecies ernesti
Photo © by SeeToh
Pulau Ubin, Singapore, 9 October 2018

Cliff faces for breeding, hunts over cultivated land and grassland, marshes and wetlands, beaches and the sea. Also increasingly using urban areas to nest/breed on buildings.



Takes prey mainly in the air, using height advantage to gain speed. Typically employs a high speed steep dive (stoop), where reported speeds exceed 200 km/h. Uses the long, 'elasticated' hind toe to hit the bird without injuring itself; the impact of this often kills the prey outright. Also pursues prey such as Feral Pigeon/Rock Dove in flight using speed from a dive and rapid jinking manoeuvering. Only rarely takes prey on the ground or on water.


The diet includes a wide range of birds, such as doves, waterfowl and songbirds, including birds as large as Great Black-backed Gull and Brant Goose, up to 2 kg weight. Occasionally hunts small mammals, including bats, rats, voles and rabbits. Insects and reptiles make up a relatively small proportion of their diet. Exceptionally, Peregrine Falcons have been known to eat their own chicks when starving.


A scrape on a cliff ledge is made and 3-4 eggs are laid. The females incubate the eggs for 29-32 days. Chicks fledge 35-42 days after hatching. It is increasingly using urban high-rise buildings and churches for nest/breeding sites, to prey largely on Feral Pigeons.


Most of the subspecies are resident, but F. p. calidus and F. p. tundrius migrate long distances south to avoid the arctic winters experienced in their breeding ranges.



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  1. Gill F, D Donsker & P Rasmussen (Eds). 2020. IOC World Bird List (v10.1). doi : 10.14344/IOC.ML.10.1. Available at http://www.worldbirdnames.org/
  2. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2019. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World: v2019. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  3. Del Hoyo, J, A Elliot, and J Sargatal, eds. 1994. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 2: New World Vultures to Guineafowl. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. ISBN 978-8487334153
  4. Fitter, R.S.R. & Richardson, R.A. (1966). Pocket Guide to British Birds. London: Collins.
  5. White, C. M., N. J. Clum, T. J. Cade, and W. G. Hunt (2020). Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (S. M. Billerman, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.perfal.01
  6. White, C.M., Christie, D.A., de Juana, E. & Marks, J.S. (2020). Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/53247 on 11 March 2020).
  7. Global Raptor Information Network. 2020. Species account: Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 11 Mar. 2020

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