Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Student guest post: Peregrine Falcon by Jason Walker

Falco peregrinus
Photo courtesy of: Dr. Jeffrey Stratford
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Faloniformes
Family: Falconidae
Genus: Falco
Species: peregrinus

The Peregrine Falcon is a member of the family Falconidae, which has approximately 64 members, including the gyrfalcon and American Kestrel. The genus Falco contains 38 members.


Peregrine Falcons mainly eat small birds, but will also take small mammals. Peregrine Falcons live on every continent except for Antarctica. Peregrine Falcons that live in Arctic climates tend to be the only ones that migrate south for winter.

Photo courtesy of:

Photo courtesy of: Dr. Jeffrey Stratford

Peregrine Falcons are monogamous for several breeding seasons at least. They usually produce 2-5 eggs on alternate days, although they have been known to lay 6. The eggs are incubated for 30-35 days and 40-46 days later the chicks fledge.
The Peregrine Falcon prefers to nest on cliffs or other high natural structures overlooking rivers, but with the increase of humans in their range Peregrines have taken to nesting on skyscrapers and bridges.

Although they have been removed from the federal Endangered Species list, the Peregrine Falcon still faces many threats, such as the protozoan disease Trichomoniasis in nestlings which they get from pigeons and the fungal disease Aspergillosis in chicks and adults. The Peregrine is also affected by PCBs and DDE, which weakens’ shells. Nest disturbance due to bridge and building maintenance has become a problem, as the falcon has adapted to human presence. Eggs face predation from raccoons and rats and fledglings, and sometimes adults, are eaten by Great Horned Owls.

The federal government no longer actively manages Peregrine Falcons, but is still monitoring certain nest sites, and they are still being monitored in Pennsylvania, and young are being banded. Overall, the management of Peregrines has been very successful because of their ability to nest on human structures.  
Photo courtesy of : Dr. Jeffrey Stratford


Barber, Patricia; Brauning, Daniel W.; McMorris, F. Arthur. 2013. Management and Biology of the Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) in Pennsylvania. Bureau of Wildlife Management

Fuchs, J., Johnson, J. A., & Mindell, D. P. (2015). Rapid diversification of falcons (Aves: Falconidae) due to expansion of open habitats in the Late Miocene. Molecular Phylogenetics & Evolution82166-182. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2014.08.010

 Myers, P., R. Espinosa, C. S. Parr, T. Jones, G. S. Hammond, and T. A. Dewey. 2015. The Animal Diversity Web (online). Accessed at

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