Credit: Paul Irish


Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) anatum
Duck Hawk

a Peregrine Falcon found in the Hudson River Valley


I. Characteristics

a. Physical attributes

i. Crow sized

ii. Small heads
iii. Narrow tails
iv. Long, pointed wings
v. Sexed (early on) by measuring the width of legs
vi. Females larger

b. Coloring

i. Adults (called haggards)

1. Slate-gray bodies
2. Dark spot below eye

ii. Juveniles

1. Brown
2. Dark underline

II. Life history

a. Incredible hunter

i. Dives to catch prey at speeds of 200 mph
ii. Catches prey on its wing and grabs it with its razor sharp talons
iii. If that doesn't kill it, use beak to severe spinal cord
iv. Usual prey are larger birds, such as pigeons, ducks, sparrows, starlings, and other urban birds

b. Reproduction

i. Mate for life
ii. Replace mate when it dies
iii. Female is dominant in pair
iv. Courting

1. Male

a. Impresses female with flying skills
b. Kills a bird for the female
c. Mating call

2. Female

a. Catches bird killed by male by flipping over
b. Accepts male

v. Nesting - nest called a scrape

1. Male - Searches for several nests
2. Female - Chooses the nest from those shown by the male

vi. Eggs 

1. Lays 2 - 7 eggs, one every other day
2. Average of 4 eggs
3. Ping-pong size
4. Creamy pink to red-brown
5. They can take several years before laying 4 eggs or more

vii. Incubation

1. Approximately 33 days
2. Female - sits on eggs; rarely hunts
3. Male - mostly hunts; sometimes sits on eggs
4. After hatching, female hunts, as well as male

viii. Juveniles

1. Babies called eyas
2. Takes 2 days to emerge from shell

a. "Pipp" at the egg
b. Use sharp "egg tooth" on beak
c. Eyes remain shut for several days after emerge

3. Aren't fed for 24 hours after hatching
4. Feathers are white down only for 3 or 4 weeks, then regular plumage
5. Fledglings

a. Name given when chicks leave the nest on their first flight
b. Usually between 38th and 45th day after hatching
c. Females leave last as they are larger and need more time to develop their muscles

6. Full growth in six weeks
7. Sexually mature at 2 years old
8. Life expectancy of 20 years

c. Habitat

i. Very high so they can see their prey
ii. Prior to endangerment

1. Lofty cliffs 
2. Taken over by owls (predators)

iii. Post endangerment

1. Tall buildings/skyscrapers, especially cities
2. Bridges
3. Nesting boxes put up by conservationists

iv. Range of Habitat

1. Three species that spread across North America
2. Migrate south for winter, but not if there is enough food in their breeding area



II. Decline



a. Use of DDT and organophosphate pesticides caused major decline in 1970's

i. Breeding pairs dropped from 350 to 39 
ii. DDT and like compounds causes:

1. Reproduction complications
2. Eggshell thinning

b. Comeback

i. Hacking - raising birds in an artificial nest and caring for them until they are able to fly
ii. Peregrine Fund

1. Breeding project founded in 1970
2. Headed by Tom Cade at Cornell University
3. Another breeding facility at Ft. Collins, Colorado
4. Consolidated at The World Center for Birds of Prey in 1984

iii. Heinz Meng

1. Professor at SUNY New Paltz
2. Fist scientist to breed Peregrine Falcons in captivity - 1971
3. Gave the breeding pair to Cornell University to carry on
4. Played a key role in the falcon being removed from the Endangered Species list
5. Named on "100 Champions of Conservation" of the 20th Century by the National Audubon Society

iv. Banding

1. Young birds are banded and checked for health
2. Identification and tracking purpose

c. Legislation

i. Put on Federal and New York State Endangered Species list 
ii. Removed from Federal Endangered Species list 1999
iii. Remains on New York State Endangered Species list
iv. Protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act - illegal to take kill or posses migratory birds and/or eggs without permit

IV. Peregrine's Today

a. DDT still used in other countries where the birds migrate
b. DDT accumulates and may cause reproductive problems

V. Where to find them

a. Mid-Hudson Bridge - view the nest camera
b. Kodak Office Tower
c. Statler Towers, Buffalo, NY - view the nest camera
d. 55 Water Street, NY (originally nested on the Bank of New York Building on Wall Street, NY)
- view the pictures of the birds
e. Dunn Memorial Bridge, Albany