Falcons -- School-Age
Things to Know
A falcon is any species of raptor in the genus Falco. Falcons are medium sized birds of prey, they hunt and eat animals for food. They are diurnal-they hunt during the day.
Falcons are swift powerful fliers that dive at their prey catching it in mid-air. Falcons are birds of prey and are known for their hunging skills and ruthlessness. They hunt their prey from the skies, once they have spotted their prey they swoop down and catch it.
Falcons have long wings and powerful beaks. When fully grown falcons fly at very high speeds and rapidly change directions because their wings are pointed and thin.
They are related to hawks and eagles. They can be found worldwide and are found on every continent except Antarctica. This makes it the most widespread raptor and one of the most widely found bird species.
Falcons range in size from the falconets at 6 inches (15 cm) long to the Arctic gyrfalcon at 24 inches (60 cm). Some small falcons with long narrow wings are called hobbies, and some which hover while hunting are called kestrels. The falcons are part of the family Falconidae.
There are 37 species of falcon. Six types of falcons that are found in North America: American Kestrel, Merlin, Aplomado Falcon, Prairie Falcon, Peregrine Falcon, and Gyrfalcon.
The peregrine falcon’s diving speed is amazing. As it executes a dive, the peregrine falcon soars to a great height, then dives at speeds of over 200 miles (323 km) per hour. No other bird can match the speed of a peregrine falcon in a hunting dive. Also, in a dive peregrine falcon's are the fastest animal on Earth
The scientific name of the Peregrine Falcon (Falco Peregrinus) falco meaning hook-shaped and may refer to the beak or claws, and peregrinus, meaning to wander.
Peregrine Falcons have also been called Duck Hawk and Wandering Falcon.
The Peregrine falcon is a “wanderer” or “migrator”. This large falcon has the largest distribution of any bird in the world. The peregrine falcon is found on every continent except Antarctica.
The peregrine is an adaptable falcon, it can be found in almost any habitat. From the hot desersts to the cold tundra. From cities to high mountains. They live in a greater variety of habitats than any other bird of prey.
Range of the Peregrine Falcon
Some falcons migrate and some do not. Peregrines in the more northern climates, such as Alaska and Greenland, are more likely to migrate during the winter.
They migrate to places that are warmer in the winter, such as the southern United States, Central and South America. There are some falcons that do not migrate because the winters are not too severe where they live and the food sources are adequate.
The Peregrine Falcon is recognizable from other raptors with its black feathers on its head, dark feathers around its beak. The feathers on the back of the peregrine falcon are dark wtih a bluish tinge. The wings are thin and tapered with a sharp point.
Male and Female Peregrine Falcons
The female is called a falcon, the male is called a tiercel, and a falcon chick is called an eyas.
As with other birds of prey the female is larger than the male.There are other subtle difference in male and female feather patterns. Peregrine Falcon Gender Identification Guide (with pictures).
Female Peregrine Falcon
Image: Matt MacGillivray
At around 3 years of age peregrines generally begin breeding. The female lays a clutch of three to four eggs dotted with red and brown spots each spring. The female incubates the eggs while the male falcon hunts and brings her food. The eggs will hatch after about 34 days. An eyas is a falcon chick, they are fed by both parents.
Peregrine Falcons nest on ledges of rocky cliffs, on tall buildings or bridges.
Cliff nests are generally located under an overhang and on ledges with vegetation. They do not build nests from twigs, they create a scrape, a small depression out of soil.
Peregrines will nest on tall buildings and bridges, these man-made structures closely resemble the cliff ledges that Peregrines perfer as a nesting location.
Juvenile male on the tower roofof Berby Cathedral