American Peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus anatum)
The peregrine falcon belongs to the genus "Falco," which is characterized by long pointed wings. In fact the word Falco is derived from "falx," the Latin word for sickle, in reference to the distinct sickle-shaped silhouette of the peregrine falcon’s extended wings in flight. Also unique to this species is the notched beak that is used to kill prey by severing the spinal column at the neck. The peregrine falcon is a crow-sized bird, weighing just over two pounds with a wing span of approximately 3 feet. An adult peregrine has a dark grey back and crown, dark bars or streaks on a pale chest and abdomen, and heavy malar (cheek) stripes on the side of the face. Immature peregrines are buff colored in front and have dark brown backs; adults are white or buff in front and bluish-gray on their backs. Females and males are identical in appearance, however, the female can be a third larger than the male.
- Goodrich, L.J., and J.P. Smith. 2008. Raptor migration in North America. Pp. 37-149 in K.L. Bildstein, J.P. Smith, E. Ruelas Inzunza, and R.R. Veit (eds.), State of North America's birds of prey Nuttall Ornithological Club, Cambridge, MA, and American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C
- White, Clayton M., Nancy J. Clum, Tom J. Cade and W. Grainger Hunt. 2002. Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/660
- Wheeler, B.K., C.M. White and J.M. Economidy. 2003. Raptors of Western North America: The Wheeler Guide
- States/US Territories in which the American Peregrine falcon, Wherever found is known to or is believed to occur: Arizona , Colorado , Oklahoma
- US Counties in which the American Peregrine falcon, Wherever found is known to or is believed to occur: View All
- USFWS Refuges in which the American Peregrine falcon, Wherever found is known to occur:
Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge, Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska Peninsula National Wildlife Refuge, Amagansett National Wildlife Refuge, Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge... Show All Refuges
- Additional species information
|Status||Date Listed||Lead Region||Where Listed|
|06/02/1970||California/Nevada Region (Region 8)||Wherever found|
» Federal Register Documents
|12/03/2003||American peregrine falcon PDM plan|
» Critical Habitat
|Date||Citation Page||Title||Document Type||Status|
|09/22/1977||42 FR 47840 47845||Final Correction and Augumentation of Critical Habitat Reorganization; 42 FR 47840 47845||Final Rule||Final designated|
|08/11/1977||42 FR 40685 40690||Determination of Critical Habitat for Six Endangered Species Including Palila, Renumbering of Critical Habitat Listings; 42 FR 40685 40690 (Florida Everglades kite, Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus; American peregrine falcon, Falco peregrinus anatum; palila Psittirostra bailleui; dusky seaside sparrow, Ammospiza maritima nigrescens; Cape Sable sparrow, Ammospiza maritima mirabilis; Morro Bay kangaroo rat, Dipodomus heermanni morroensis)||Final Rule||Not Required|
|08/30/1976||41 FR 36516||Proposed Critical Habitat for the American Peregrine Falcon; 41 FR 36516||Proposed Rule||Not Required|
To learn more about critical habitat please see http://ecos.fws.gov/crithab
» Conservation Plans
|CCA Plan Summaries|
|Spring Mountains National Recreation Area|
» Life History
The habitat of the Peregrine Falcon includes many terrestrial biomes in North America. Most often, breeding Peregrine Falcons utilize habitats containing cliffs and almost always nest near water (Wheeler 2003, p. 477, White et al. 2002). Peregrine Falcons generally utilize open habitats for foraging. Non-breeding Peregrine Falcons may also occur in open areas without cliffs. Many artificial habitats like towers, bridges and buildings are also utilized by Peregrine Falcons (White et al. 2002).
Peregrine Falcons prey on a select group of species in regional and local areas, and their selections may vary seasonally. Their prey mainly consists of birds ranging from small passerines to mid-sized waterfowl. They may also feed on bats. Juveniles primarily feed on large flying insects (Wheeler 2003, p. 477). Peregrine Falcons are active throughout the day from dawn to dusk and can even be nocturnal. They usually hunt in the morning and late evening (Wheeler 2003, p. 477). Peregrine Falcons are aerial and perching hunters that rarely scavenge. From perches, Peregrines dive quickly to capture prey. In an aerial attack, Peregrine Falcons will dive at high speed while gliding, soaring or kiting at a low altitude. Prey is often eaten while soaring, gliding or kiting (Wheeler 2003, p. 478).
Movement / Home Range
The breeding range of the Peregrine Falcon is significantly diminished from its original range due to the impacts of DDT and other chemical poisons; and is local and spotty throughout most of North America. Areas where the range is particularly diminished are the mid-western and eastern United States, where most of the distribution is urban, but reportedly growing quickly. Areas of Alaska and the western United States including Utah, Arizona, western Colorado and northern California are where the Peregrine Falcon is most widely found (White et al. 2002). The Peregrine Falcon is a long-distance migrant that travels one of the longest distances of any raptor and may undertake long water crossings. It is a leap-frog migrant that commonly follows leading and diversion lines and that travels alone or in small groups of 10-20 individuals. Peregrine Falcons hunt during migration and may stay as long as eight days at stopovers for this purpose. Satellite tracked individuals have been shown to migrate distances of between 87-124 miles per day. Migration for Peregrine Falcons occurs mostly from morning through late afternoon. Migration movements can be broad front or narrow front in form. The Peregrine Falcon is known to migrate at heights at or below 2,953 ft. The Peregrine has clear migration routes which either occur along leading lines or coastal areas with ideal habitat on the Eastern and Gulf Coasts and Eastern Mexico such as Chincoteague and Assateague Island in MD and VA and Padre Island, TX and Veracruz, Mexico. Peregrines also migrate in lesser concentrations along shores of the Great Lakes, the West Coast of the U.S., western Mexico, and the eastern front of the Rocky Mountains (Goodrich and Smith 2008, p. 138).
Peregrine Falcons build their nests in substrates on ledges of cliffs ranging from 8-400 m in height. The male creates a depression in the substrate by scraping it with his feet. Most Peregrine Falcons will use ledges used by other Peregrines in previous years. Peregrines arrive at nest sites around April or May and egg laying may begin from two weeks to two months later depending on the latitude.
All Peregrine Falcon subspecies fall victim to illegal shooting in North America and on wintering grounds. Poisoning, especially from organochlorides was historically responsible for severe Peregrine declines; however, following the DDT ban, levels of this poison significantly decreased, and Peregrine Falcon populations have since made a full recovery (Wheeler 2003, p. 490). Peregrine Falcons still fall victim to poisoning, but no poisons are presently known to have impacts to Peregrine Falcons at the population level in North America (White et al. 2002). Adult mortality sources also include electrocution from utility wires and poles. Juveniles collide with several anthropogenic structures and vehicles including windows, cars and trains and succumb to natural predators and mortality resulting territorial aggression (Wheeler 2003, p. 490). Human disturbance near nests can also cause decreased nest success (Wheeler 2003, p. 491).
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