Q: What do Peregrine Falcons eat?
A: A Peregrine Falcon’s diet consists almost exclusively of medium-sized birds such as pigeons and mourning doves, but the Peregrine will occasionally hunt small mammals, small reptiles, or even insects.
Q: How do they catch the birds they eat?
A: Peregrines take their prey in the air. They dive after their prey in a fast moving downward motion called a stoop. As they close in on their prey they cover it with their wings while they punch it with their fisted talons. This either instantly kills the prey or knocks it out and the Peregrine then catches the prey in midair.
Q: How big are Peregrine Falcons?
A: Peregrine Falcons are about the size and weight of a crow – typically females are larger and more powerful than males. Peregrine’s are about 15-21 inches from head to tail. Their wingspan is about 3.5 feet. They weigh around 2 lbs, with the female being up to 30% larger than the male.
Q: How fast do Peregrines fly?
A: Peregrine Falcons are nature’s fastest fliers: Peregrines have been clocked diving, or stooping, at speeds of over 200 miles per hour!
Q: How long do they live?
A: Adults typical life span is 7-15 years but some can live as long as 20 years. Peregrine’s have about a 60% mortality rate as young birds.
Q: Why are Peregrine falcons endangered?
A: In the 1960s, scientists discovered that DDT was interfering in the egg shell formation of meat and fish eating birds. Healthy birds were laying eggs so thin they were crushed by the weight of the incubating adult.By 1965, no Peregrine falcons were fledged in the eastern or Central United States. By 1968, the Peregrine population was completely eradicated east of the Mississippi River. Since the ban on DDT from the early 1970s, populations have recovered, supported by large-scale protection of nesting places and releases to the wild.
Q: How many Peregrines exist today?
A: There are an estimated 1,650 breeding pairs in the United States. New York has over 70 breeding pairs.
Q: Do Peregrines stay together year after year or do they find new mates each year?
A: Peregrines mate for life and return to the same nesting site each year. If a mate dies the surviving partner will usually seek out a new mate.The mating ritual includes some amazing aerial feats of swooping, spirals and steep dives. The male also brings the female prey that he has caught to show that he is a good provider.
Q: Where do Peregrines nest and what do they use to make a nest?
A: Peregrines in the wild nest on cliffs and ledges but they have adapted to city life and will nest in man-made nest boxes as well. The nest site consists of small rocks and stones on a ledge or in a nest box. The female and even the male make scrapes in the stones creating a depression in which to lay the eggs. This is done to keep the eggs from rolling off the cliff when the adults are rolling and adjusting the eggs.
Q: How many eggs do they have each year?
A: Peregrines mate during March and April and typically lay a “clutch” totaling 3-5 eggs. Incubation of the eggs takes approximately 31-33 days.
Q: How do the baby Peregrines get out of the egg?
A: Inside the egg, the Peregrine chick has its head tucked under its wing. A large muscle called the hatching muscle runs from the middle of the neck to the top of the head. About 30 days after incubation has started, this muscle contracts. The chick’s head snaps up and the egg tooth, a hard pointed knob on top of the beak, cracks the inside of the eggshell. This creates a “pip” – a small hole with tiny cracks spreading out across the shell. One to two days after pipping, the chick begins moving around in the shell. The egg tooth scrapes against the eggshell, cutting a ring through it. About 33 days after the egg is laid, the chick breaks out.
Q: What do baby Peregrines look like when they are born?
A: Baby Falcons are called eyases. They are covered by white down when they are born, which is replaced by feathers in three to five weeks.
Q: How do the eyases get their food?
A: Eyases are completely dependent on their parents for food. One parent stays with the chicks while the other finds food for the brood. Eyases eat an incredible amount of food. They double their weight in only six days and at three weeks will be ten times birth size.
Q: How long does it take eyases to learn to fly?
A: Eyases will fledge (take their first flight) about 44 days after hatching. Peregrine parents encourage flight by “baiting” the young with food, which is no longer neatly prepared and fed directly to the young.
Q: Once they learn to fly are they completely on their own?
A: The young peregrines will continue to be dependent on their parents for food for 1-2 months after fledging.