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Peregrine Falcon, Falco peregrinus

Photo copyright Dave Watts

Description

Peregrine Falcons are large (up to 500 mm) birds of prey with a black crown and cheeks, blue-black upperparts with darker mottles and creamy white chin, throat and underparts, with numerous dark bars from the breast to the tail. The eye-ring is yellow, as is the upper parts of the beak.

The related Australian Hobby is similar in appearance, but lacks the full black hood.

Habitat

The Peregrine Falcon prefers inland cliffs and gorges, coastal cliffs and islands, open woodlands near water, and may even be found nesting on ledges on high city buildings.

Diet

The Peregrine Falcon is the most impressive of the raptors (birds of prey), being capable of catching other birds on the wing and reaching speeds of up to 300 km per hour. It is the fastest animal on Earth. It feeds on  birds, as well as rabbits. It soars to a great height in search of prey, and swoops down on its prey from above with half-closed wings. Pairs may hunt co-operatively, with one member scattering a flock of birds while the other swoops down to attack a particular individual.

Breeding

The Peregrine Falcon mates for life. Nesting occurs on recesses of cliff faces, although on the mainland tree hollows or large abandoned nests of other birds are sometimes used. Two to three eggs are laid, and these are incubated for 29-33 days by the female. When the young have hatched, both parents hunt to provide food. Chicks fledge 42 to 46 days after hatching, and remain dependent on their parents for up to two months.

Call

A hoarse, stacato "kek, kek, kek, kek" or a shrill scream. (Audio recordings courtesy of David Stewart/Nature Sound)
Distribution Map courtesy Natural Values Atlas, data from theLIST
© 2010 State of Tasmania


Distribution

The Peregrine Falcon is the world's most widespread bird of prey, with a global range extending from the Arctic tundra to the Tropics. The only areas where it does not occur include extreme polar regions, very high mountains, and most tropical rainforests. The only major land mass on which it does not occur is New Zealand. The Peregrine Falcon is found across mainland Australia, but is not common anywhere.

In Tasmania, the Peregrine is found throughout the island where there are suitable cliff edges for nesting. It is sometimes seen in Launceston's Cataract Gorge and near the Tasman Bridge in Hobart, where is can be seen chasing Starlings as they come to roost on the ledges beneath the bridge at dusk.