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Peregrine falcon

All about peregrines

The peregrine falcon is a master of the air, arguably the fastest animal in the world when it dives to catch birds in flight. It has been prized for hundreds of years for falconry, but has also been greatly persecuted by landowners.

What to look for

The peregrine is a medium-sized bird of prey up to 43cm long and with a wingspan reaching 106cm. The female is larger than the male. Both sexes have blue-grey upper parts, with dark blue wings and head. The breast is pale and finely spotted and the head has bold moustache-like stripes. The wings are long, with a broad base and pointed tips, dark blue above and pale, with bars below.

Did you know?

  • The peregrine falcon eats mostly birds, including feral pigeon, wood pigeon, lapwing, skylark, black-headed gull, blackbird and starling, although rabbits are also occasionally hunted. It catches its prey mainly in the air, either by chasing it and attacking from below or in breathtaking dives from above. These dives can reach up to 200 miles an hour, until it suddenly slows and strikes with its talons from below its prey.
  • Peregrine falcons will re-use nest sites over many years and the pairs will perform amazing aerobatic displays when they return to them in February to begin breeding. The female lays 3-4 eggs in March – April, which hatch after she has incubated them for 33 days. At first the male does all the hunting while the female looks after the chicks, but both parents hunt when the chicks get larger. The young fly after 39 days, gradually becoming independent of their parents.
  • You can see peregrine falcons in the centre of Nottingham. Look up at the Nottingham Trent Newton Building opposite the Cornerhouse during nesting season (March to July) and you’ll spot a whole family, including the chicks. You’ll get a better view by checking out our website where you can watch the live web stream of the nest. You’ll be able to watch the young hatch, and then the parents flying in and out of the nest feeding what look just like little white balls of fluff. As it gets closer to the summer, you’ll see the now brown and much bigger chicks leave the nest for the last time.

Photo gallery

Peregrine with chicks Notts WT (cpt Nottingham Trent University) Peregrine on nest 9-3-12 Notts WT (cpt Nottingham Trent University) Peregrine on nest  16-3-12 Notts WT (cpt Nottingham Trent University) Peregrine on egg 16-3-12 Notts WT (cpt Nottingham Trent University) Peregrine on egg  14-3-12 Notts WT (cpt Nottingham Trent University) Peregrine on egg  14-3-12 Notts WT (cpt Nottingham Trent University) Peregrine on egg 14-3-12 Notts WT (cpt Nottingham Trent University) Peregrine on egg 16-3-12 Notts WT (cpt Nottingham Trent University) Peregrine on egg 16-3-12 Notts WT (cpt Nottingham Trent University) Peregrine on egg 21-2-12 Notts WT (cpt Nottingham Trent University) Peregrine Falcon 21-2-12 Notts WT (cpt Nottingham Trent University) Peregrine Falcon 21-2-12 Notts WT (cpt Nottingham Trent University) Peregrine Falcon 21-2-12 Notts WT (cpt Nottingham Trent University) Peregrine Falcon 16-2-12 Notts WT (cpt Nottingham Trent University) Peregrine Cam March 14th  2012 Notts WT 2nd egg just been laid approx 11.55 16-3-12  Notts WT (cpt Nottingham Trent University) 1 egg Peregrine Cam March 14th  2012 Notts WT 1 egg Peregrine Cam  March 14th  2012 Notts WT Peregrine in flight Nottingham 2011 Nottswt (cpt Sean Browne) Peregrine feeding time Nottingham 2011 Nottswt (cpt Sean Browne) Peregrine adult with prey Nottingham 2011 Nottswt (cpt Sean Browne) Peregrine  Nottingham 2011 Nottswt (cpt Sean Browne) Peregrine  Nottingham 2011 Nottswt (cpt Sean Browne) Adult with Young Nottingham June 2011 Nottswt (cpt Sean Browne) Adult soaring Nottingham June 2011 Nottswt (cpt Sean Browne) Adult soaring 2 Nottingham June 2011 Nottswt (cpt Sean Browne) NTU Peregrine ringing May 2011 Nottswt (cpt Nottingham Trent University) NTU Peregrine chick ringing May 2011 Nottswt (cpt NTU) Peregrine NottsWT (cpt joanne Hedger) Peregrine falcon NottsWT (cpt John Booth) Peregrine chick ringing Notts WT Peregrine chick ringing Notts WT Pererine at NTU Newton Building  NottsWT (cpt Howard Johnson) Peregrine Falcon on NTU Newton NottsWT (cpt Jacqui Grafton) Peregrine at Trent Uni 2011 NottsWT (cpt Alan Kightley) Peregrine feeding 2011 Notts WT (cpt Nottingham Trent University) Feeding Chicks May 5th Peregrine cam 2011 (cpt Nottingham trent University) Feeding Chicks May 5th Peregrine cam 2011 (cpt Nottingham trent University) Peregrine Cam 10th May 2011 NottsWT (cpt Nottingham trent University) Peregrine Cam 4th April 2011 NottsWT (cpt Nottingham trent University)

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Peregrine falcon Printable Factsheet

Status

The peregrine falcon has long been persecuted in the wild by landowners and egg hunters as well as suffering greatly from certain industrial pesticides during the twentieth century.  This has caused a significant reduction in the population within the United Kingdom.

Habitats

In the UK, the peregrine falcon mainly lives in the North and West uplands and rocky coasts, but has recently spread to southern coasts as well. It typically prefers open country and hunts over agricultural land, marshes and estuaries. However, in recent years peregrines have shown themselves to be very adaptable and now hunt and breed in a number of towns and cities.

Where to see

Peregrine falcons are usually seen flying quickly in open countryside, using fast wing-beats mixed with long glides, or soaring high in the sky in the search of prey. Most hunting is done at dawn or dusk. Peregrines living in towns are most easily seen roosting on tall buildings, which closely match their preferred natural nesting sites on crags, cliffs and other steep rock faces.

 

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