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Peregrine Falcon
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adult
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Falconiformes
Family: Falconidae
Genus: Falco
Species: Falco peregrinus

The Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), also known simply as the Peregrine, is the fastest flying bird, capable of diving at a speed of 350km/h (217mph). Peregrines have previously been rare, but they are now widespread and fairly common.

Appearance

A juvenile taking flight.

The Peregrine has white underparts with much black streaking, their wings and back are gray and they have a black stripe around their eyes and head. The Peregrine keeps its wings very close when in flight, and its yellow legs are tucked backwards. The males are much smaller than the females.

Closeup of a juvenile Peregrine Falcon. Notice the "falcon tooth", used for breaking a prey's neck.

Distribution

Peregrines are birds found throughout most of America, Australia, Asia, Europe and Africa, excluding the Sahara Desert.

Behavior

The Peregrine Falcon lives alone or in couples and is a migratory bird.

Nesting

Peregrine nest with three chicks on top of a skyscraper.

The Peregrine often nests on cliff ledges or in abandoned crow nests. They lay 3 or 4 eggs which are creamy white with brown and red markings. Though there were previous eggshell problems with a DDT outbreak in California, most eggs are now healthy in the wild.

Feeding

The Peregrine Falcon feeds exclusively on birds, wich are caught in mid-air. The Falcon dives from above and hits the bird to stun it, then kills it by breaking its neck with its bill. The Peregrine Falcon usually hunts birds from the size of a sparrow to the size of a grouse or duck (and sometimes eats smaller raptors, such as kestrels or sparrowhawks), however, Peregrines have been known to attack birds much bigger than that, like pelicans, if not to hunt them, to mob them. 

A falcon with a caught pigeon.


Mobbing

The Peregrine Falcon is often aggressive towards raptors or corvids larger than it. It is seen chasing eagles, buzzards and kites away from its territory. This behaviour is called "mobbing". Corvids like crows, magpies and jackdaws mob peregrine falcons.

A Peregrine Falcon chasing a Bald Eagle away.

Predators

Peregrines are usually apex predators, even though they are sometimes preyed on by larger birds of prey such as Golden Eagles and Eurasian Eagle Owls prey on them.

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