The peregrine falcon, the most famous of the raptors of the falcon family


Stockier than large, the peregrine falcon is a hunter of the highest caliber. Perched on a cliff, it is in the air that it terraces its prey. Close-up on a raptor reputed to be the most fast of the world in dive.

Peregrine Falcon Identity Card

The peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) is a member of the falconids, a family of raptors daytime small to medium in size, encompassing caracaras and hawks. The term “falco” comes from the Latin word “falx”, designating the false. The tool is reminiscent of the wings of the animal: long, thin and arched in a crescent. Bird prey the most famous in the world, the peregrine falcon has 22 subspecies distributed on all continents.

Peregrine falcon: a mustache on the cheek

The peregrine falcon displays a relatively compact, surmounted by a round black head, quite large compared to the body. Each cheek is adorned with a large black spot called mustache which is found, in varying dimensions, in all varieties of falcons. Its short, hooked beak is adorned with outgrowth (tomial tooth) allowing it to kill its prey by cutting its cervical vertebra. The cere of the beak, the eye area and the legs are yellow.

Sexual dimorphism in the peregrine falcon

The size of the female (46 to 54 cm) is one third superior to that of the male and its wingspan (104 to 113 cm) much larger. The plumage of both sexes is similar with a few shades: light gray to bluish for the male who presents a plain white throat or not very marked. The female puts on a matching dress anthracite more or less tinged with brown and a white throat often dotted with large black spots. Generally speaking, the plumage of the male is more contrast than that of the female with a more uniform appearance. Young people put on a brown slate above and under surfaces are streaked with long spots during their first year.

The peregrine falcon very present in France

The peregrine falcon is found all over the world with the exception of theAntarctic : Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, North and South America and many islands and archipelagos in Oceania. In France, it colonizes in an almost continuous way a whole band connecting the Ardennes to the Basque Country: Pyrenees, Alps, Massif Central. Its workforce is also distributed in the Lot and Dordogne, in Burgundy, particularly in the Swear. The peregrine falcon also nests in the south, as far as Corsica, as well as on the Normandy and Breton coasts.

Rock habitat for the peregrine falcon

Two criteria major conditions the installation of the peregrine falcon in a region: sites rupestral (cliffs and ledges) to nest and a wildlife abundant for food. This is why the bird favors large open spaces whose access is perfectly cleared, by the sea as in the mountains (up to 2000 meters in altitude in the Northern Alps). In winter, it frequents plains, attracted by flocks of birds, his favorite meal.

A high-flying diet

The raptor menu fluctuates considerably from region to region and depending on the time of year. His predilection for the cliffs gives him a point of view strategic to locate its target and dive into it at high speed. Ornithophagus, it captures almost exclusively birds in flight with a preference for small to medium-sized species: tit, jay, wood pigeon, domestic pigeon, starlings… This diurnal predator likes to hunt.lookout : posted in height, it dives on its prey and the terrace with its beak and its talons. If his victim escapes him, the shock throws her to the ground and the falcon hastens to join her to finish her off. The peregrine falcon can also catch large insects in flight (beetles, grasshoppers) or bats.

A nest on the ground

From February, the male begins to attract his usual mate with aerial displays and calls. During the flight nuptial, the couple draw circles in altitude and it is not uncommon to see the male simulating an attack in stung towards the female at very high speed (up to 350 km / h). His companion then turns on her back and the talons of the two birds brush against each other, sometimes the beak and the feathers. The male also performs offerings in the form of food. After selecting a cavity located most often in the upper part of a cliff, the peregrine falcon nests directly on the ground without building a nest. The place will be defended with ardor against any intrusion.

The breeding of small peregrine falcons

In spring, the female lays two to three eggs which will be incubated alternately by the parents for an average of one month. After hatching, the falcons with creamy white down will be fed by their parents and will remain in the nest throughout the learning period of flight and hunt (about two months). Faced with the progressive lack of food provided by the adults, the juveniles leave the site and go in search of a territory. The following two years, the annual mortality rate is estimated at 50% (inability to feed, predation, climatic hazards).

A raptor prey of … raptors

The predators peregrine falcons (especially eggs, chicks and juveniles) include large raptors, such as eagles, eagle owl or gyrfalcon. In some regions, it is the prey of raccoon, fox, mink and corvids. In the sixties, the massive use of pesticides in agriculture has resulted in a dramatic decline of the species all over the world. Legal protection of raptors (Berne Convention for Europe) and better control of the substances making up the treatments phytosanitary have led to a resurgence of its population. The life expectancy of the peregrine falcon in the wild is 13 years on average, up to 20 years in captivity.