The Peregrine Falcon

Falco peregrinus - Peregrine Falcon

Family - Falconidae

Order - Falconiformes

Wingspan - Up to 45 inches

Recognition - Light brown body with darker brown markings and a white throat. Head is dark brown and the beak and feet are bright yellow.

Habitat - Mountain ridges, coastlines, and valleys

Behavior - Carnivore

Residency - Worldwide except Antarctica

Life Span - Up to 10 years

Of Special Note - The peregrine falcon feeds primarily on smaller birds, but they are also known to eat rodents such as rats and rabbits. In some cases, they will also resort to eating reptiles and insects. The peregrine falcon is well known for its mid-air attacking of other birds, in which it will climb to a great height and dive to grab the other bird with its claws. During these dives, the bird can reach a speed of 242 miles per hour, making it the fastest animal on Earth.

To help the bird achieve such high speeds, it has developed a unique respiratory system. Instead of the typical two-way breathing systems used by most animals, the peregrine falcon has a one-way system that allows it to breathe continuously while flying. It still inhales oxygen and dispels carbon dioxide, but the uniqueness is in the flow since the bird's breath follows a straight path. The species also has unique nostrils, which are shaped like a cone. This allows it to better control its air intake and the concept was recently applied to the design of jet aircraft.

The peregrine falcon reaches sexual maturity after two or three years. After that, they find a mate for life and return to the same spot to nest every year. To seduce a female, the male will perform various acrobatics such as steep dives and spirals. It will also pass the female food as a gift in mid-air. After breeding, the female will lay an average of four eggs on a remote location, such as a cliff or the top of a building.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the peregrine falcon became endangered due to the widespread usage of DDT as a pesticide. The chemical would collect in the bird's fat tissues and result in thin egg shells that broke easily. The species' population recovered after conservation efforts, including the banning of DDT.

Sound Clips (mp3):

The Peregrine Falcon's call

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