Area peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) unusually wide, these birds live throughout Eurasia, North America and most of Africa, also found in Madagascar, some Pacific islands (up to Australia), in the extreme south of South America. Peregrine Falcons inhabit open areas, most often found in the tundra, forest-tundra, forest-steppes, savannas, on the rocky coasts of the seas. These falcons avoid solid forests and deserts, but willingly settle in urban landscapes, ranging from ancient cathedrals in small towns to modern skyscrapers of megalopolises. In the tropical areas they are sedentary, in the south of the temperate zone in winter they migrate to the south, in the northern parts of the range they are typically migratory birds.
Like most falcons, peregrine falcon - a bird of medium size. The length of his body reaches 40-50 cm, weight ranges from 0.6 to 1.3 kg, and the females are larger than males. The body of the peregrine falcon is streamlined, the chest with well-developed muscles, the wings are long, and the tail, on the contrary, is short. The ends of the wings are pointed, the tail is bluntly cut, the beak, although it looks small, is strong and ends with a sharp hook. The peregrine falcon's main weapon is relatively long legs with strong and clawed toes. A clawed punch at high speed rips up the victim’s body like a cutter. The color of males and females is the same: on top the body of the peregrine falcons is slate-gray, the same color of the cheeks, the underside of the body is light - from white to reddish-buffy. Streaks are scattered all over the body, almost imperceptible on the upper side of the wings and forming a clear “hawk” pattern on the lower side of the body. The base of the beak, eyelids and paws is bright yellow. Individual subspecies may have slight deviations from this color.
Description and Features
Peregrine Falcon is a fairly large predator from its family. The body length is from 34 to 50 centimeters, and the wingspan is from 80 to 120 centimeters. Females, as a rule, are larger than 900-1500 grams. Males have a weight of 440-750 grams. External differences between heterosexual individuals are not expressed.
The physique is similar to that of active predators: the chest is powerful with convex and hard muscles, the legs are short, thick, strong, the beak is bent like a sickle, the beak ends with sharp teeth that can bite the victim’s neck vertebrae. The eyes are large, like for a bird, bulging, dark brown, the skin around the eyes is discolored, plumage is absent.
The color of the plumage. In sexually mature individuals, the back, wings and torsion have an aspid gray color; not very clear transverse stripes of a dark color may be present. The tips of the wings are black. The abdomen is most often painted in bright colors or buffy, it all depends on the region of residence. Chest and sides are decorated with rare drop-like streaks.
The tail rounded to the bottom has a black color and a small dark strip at the end. The head is black in the upper part, light below. Powerful lower limbs and sickle-shaped beak are black, base of the beak is yellow.
The birds of the first year of life are characterized by a greater contrast in color: the back is brown, buffy, the belly is very light, the speckles are longitudinal, the legs are yellow, the base of the beak is bluish-gray. The color of the plumage of the peregrine falcon Falcon depends on the species, as well as on the region of its permanent residence.
Scientists ornithologists studied and described 19 subspecies of peregrine falcon, each has its own habitat:
- Falco peregrinus peregrinus Tunstall, nominative subspecies. Habitat Eurasia. Tied to a permanent place of residence.
- Falco peregrinus calidus Latham, tundra or white-cheeked. Lives on the islands of the Arctic Ocean, the Arctic coast. In winter, he changes his place of residence to warmer areas of the Mediterranean, Black and Caspian Seas.
- Falco peregrinus japonensis Gmelin (including kleinschmidti, pleskei and harterti). Permanently resides in the territories of northeastern Siberia, Kamchatka, and the Japanese islands.
- Maltese Falcon, Falco peregrinus brookeiSharpe. Permanent places of residence: the Mediterranean, the Iberian Peninsula, North-West Africa, the Caucasus and the southern coast of Crimea.
- Falco peregrinus pelegrinoides Temminck is a falcon of the Canary Islands, North Africa and the Middle East.
- Falco peregrinus peregrinator Sundevall, a very small falcon, resides in a permanent place in South Asia, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and southeast China.
- Falco peregrinus madens Ripley & Watson - an almost extinct species from the Cape Verde Islands, ornithologists found only 6-8 living pairs. There is sexual dimorphism of color, not characteristic of other subspecies.
- Falco peregrinus minor Bonaparte, a settled subspecies of South Africa.
- Falco peregrinus radama Hartlaub —African subspecies, preferred by Madagascar and the Comoros.
- Falco peregrinus ernesti Sharpe, a very rare bird, constantly living in one place. It occurs in the Rocky Mountains region on the western part of the American continent.
- Falco peregrinus macropus Swainson 1837 and Falco peregrinus submelanogenys Mathews 1912, live only on the Australian mainland.
- Falco peregrinus pealei Ridgway (black falcon), the largest of the subspecies. Area of habitat: coast of North America, British Columbia, Queen Charlotte islands, coast of the Bering Sea, Kamchatka, Kuril Islands.
- Arctic Falco peregrinus tundrius White, moves to the warmer regions of the center and south of America for the cold.
- Heat-loving Falco peregrinus cassini Sharpe. Permanent resident of Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, Argentina.
Nutrition and hunting features
Favorite booty peregrine falcons - birds of medium size: pigeons, seagulls, waders. During the period of feeding the chicks, peregrine falcons can also hunt unusually small prey (small waders and passerines), but sometimes their birds can become much larger than them. It is not difficult for a peregrine falcon to obtain a heron, a goose, a duck, the weight of which is several times greater than its own. Peregrine falcons rarely hunt land animals (rodents), but they do not touch larger animals at all. Peregrine Falcons are capable of taking prey both from the ground (sick or young birds that cannot fly), and from the air, but their aerial hunting is most famous. The flight of the peregrine falcon is easy with frequent flapping, while the bird develops a speed of no more than 100-110 km / h. This is a lot, but swifts, swallows and even pigeons fly with the same speed. However, the peregrine falcon has a secret weapon - a rapid pique. Here the peregrine falcon does not know equal animals in the world, because in the fall his body cuts the air at a speed of 240-300 km / h! This is the highest speed that is recorded among all living things in general.
In connection with such flight features, the peregrine falcons developed their own hunting style. These birds do not try to catch the victim in an open competition for speed, more often the peregrine falcon hunts prey out of cover (crevices in the rocks, a dry tree), and then it catches up with a sudden jerk, and the peregrine falcon tries not to fly in a straight line after the victim, but to dive under it or even to be on top. Then he folds his wings (this significantly increases the speed of free fall) and dives on the victim. A peregrine falcon has enough prey in its paws, which, combined with a huge collision speed, can already be fatal for the victim, if this was not enough, the peregrine falcon finishes off prey with a sharp beak.
Peregrine falcons live alone, in the nesting period they are kept in pairs. A couple of birds guard their sites very zealously, they drive out not only their relatives, but also other large species of birds, for example, eagles. Peregrine falcons are extensive, each nesting site is 3-10 km from the neighboring one. Interestingly, peregrine falcons never hunt near their nest, no matter how much prey there is, so geese, swans, geese try to settle down closer to peregrine falcon nests. In this case, they and their offspring are guaranteed to be protected not only from the attacks of falcons, but also from attacks of other birds of prey, which the peregrine falcons drive out.
Peregrine Falcons are monogamous birds; their pairs are preserved for life. The mating ritual consists of acrobatic flight, somersaults in the air, and the transmission of male prey to the female on the fly. Peregrine falcons have rather sloppy nests, the litter of the nest is always poor and consists of several branches and large feathers. Often this falcon is not built by nests themselves, but by ravens, occupying their owners impudently. Peregrine falcons always strive to build their own nests on safe hills (rocks, tall buildings), in the presence of such convenient nests they can occupy such places from generation to generation for centuries. Each pair on the site also has several spare nests, which they can use when ruining the main one. On vast plains (for example, in the tundra) peregrine falcons dig a shallow hole in the ground for a nest.
In April-May, the female lays 2-5 eggs (usually 3) of red-chestnut color with dark dots. Both parents incubate clutch for 33-35 days, but the female sits on the nest more often. Peregrine Falcon chicks are covered with white fluff and at first they are heated by a female. The male provides the family with food, the parents tear the prey into small pieces and feed the individual meat fibers to the chicks. The chicks grow rapidly and after a month they fledge, and after a year and a half they try to fly. The art of agile hunting is not given to young birds immediately, therefore, about a month after they take to the wing, young peregrine falcons are fed by their parents. Birds reach puberty by the year, but they form pairs only at the age of 2-3 years.
In the middle of the twentieth century, pesticides (preparations for the extermination of insects) began to be massively used in agriculture, and this led to tragic consequences for peregrine falcons. Harmful substances began to accumulate in the body of insects and insectivorous birds, and when the latter were eaten by peregrines, they also got into their body. High doses of DDT disturbed the metabolism of peregrine falcons, and they laid eggs with an abnormally thin shell, which led to a global reduction in the world population of these birds. Only a complete ban on DDT and breeding of peregrine falcons in special nurseries allowed the peregrine falcons to be preserved. Now they have restored their numbers and are even trying to populate such large cities as Moscow and New York. Here peregrine falcons have a rich food supply in the form of huge swarms of pigeons.
Lifestyle & Habitat
Peregrine Falcon - a cunning and unpretentious predator, successfully surviving throughout the globe, except for Antarctica and New Zealand. He is not afraid of high Arctic frosts and the intense heat of the African tropics.
It avoids extremely cold polar regions, mountain ranges above 4 thousand meters, deserts, tropics with excess moisture and large steppes. In Russia, nesting sites are absent only in the Volga steppes and in the western part of Siberia.
He prefers rocky shores of various reservoirs. A place for nesting chooses inaccessible for natural enemies (including humans), always with good visibility and areas for free approach.
The most suitable nesting conditions are found in the valleys of mountain rivers, rocky shores and the presence of a reservoir provide the largest population density. In the mountains, settles on rocky ledges, in the forest, selects the tallest trees, on the sides of river cliffs, in mossy swamps, happily occupies the nests of other birds.
Sometimes peregrine falcon nest can be seen in big cities, on the roofs of high-rise stone buildings. Also, pipes of various factories, bridges, high belfries, niches of high-rise buildings, in general everything that at least somehow resembles natural rocky ledges, become a good nest place.
The bulk of the birds leads a settled way of life, with the exception of only populations living in the difficult conditions of the far North, they fly to warmer areas during the winter. Sometimes, more often in cold weather, they can travel several kilometers in search of a better food supply.
The length of the territory of one nest is from 2 to 6 kilometers. This is necessary to ensure the right amount of feed, the acute need of which increases significantly during the period of feeding offspring. Each pair has 6-7 places suitable for egg laying; they have been used for more than one season.
Birds fiercely guard their hunting grounds, and when they invade their possessions they attack even much larger individuals (eagles, crows). A person is approached from a distance of 200-300 meters and an alarm is given.
If the intruder continues to move to the nest, the male screaming loudly begins to spin above his head, periodically sitting down on nearby trees growing, the female joins him. A peregrine falcon guarding a nest with chicks becomes quite aggressive, can expel quite large mammals from its territory: dogs, foxes, arctic foxes.
Peregrine Falcon eats mainly significantly smaller birds: sparrows, blackbirds, starlings, ducks, pigeons. Sometimes its victims are: bats, squirrels, hares, waterfowl. As a real predator, it is engaged in the ruin of alien nests.
The variety of food depends on the habitat, for example, the white-chested falcon preys mainly on the ground squirrels, lemmings and voles, which are widespread on its food territory. They make up at least 30% of the total production.
Hunting takes place in the morning or evening hours. Peregrine falcon most often sits in an ambush high on a ledge, waiting for the appearance of prey. It can fly by the very ground, trying to frighten away and drive out hidden prey from the shelter.
Seeing the prey, the bird rises high into the sky, folding its wings, dives sharply down, almost at a right angle, goes into a steep peak, trying to hit the victim with strong paws. Sometimes peregrine falcons hunt in pairs. Trying to catch prey in the air on the fly or on approach, alternately diving for the victim.
Circling over the fields looking for prey birds fly at low speed, even a swift is able to overtake the famous hunter. But only the keen eye caught the victim's movement, his behavior changes dramatically, a swift, deadly peak, the trump card of the fearless hunter.
When diving peregrine falcon speed sometimes increases to 322 km / h, it is the fastest bird in the world. The blow of his paws is so strong that the victim often loses his head. Loot accidentally surviving after such a powerful attack will be finished off with a powerful beak equipped with a hook. Eat on high places with good visibility.
They eat their prey selectively, leaving them whole: head, wings, legs, which are different from other feathered predators. Around the nesting site you can find food debris, according to which scientific ornithologists determine the diet of birds. Also, by the presence of characteristic remains, it is possible to accurately establish whether the nest belongs to a peregrine falcon or another predator.
In the USA, there are webcams on the balcony of the skyscraper, with which anyone can watch the life of peregrine falcons nesting above 50 floors. He also lives in Moscow, although there is only one pair of peregrine falcons so far, they settled on the main building of Moscow State University.
Peregrine Falcon - became a symbol of the American state of Idaho, and its image is imprinted on a 25-cent commemorative coin, printed by the Mint in 2007. On Russian flags and emblems there is an image of a peregrine Falcon: Suzdal, Sokol, Kumertau, it was a patrimonial sign of the ancient Russian princes.
Circling over the fields looking for prey birds fly at low speed, even a swift is able to overtake the famous hunter. But only a keen eye caught the movement of prey, his behavior changes dramatically, a swift, deadly peak, the trump card of a fearless hunter.
It is interesting that developing a super-sonic speed the bird does not lack air, this is facilitated by the special structure of the nasal septum. Air movement slows down and the bird continues to breathe as usual.
In 1530, the island of Malta was transferred by Emperor Charles 5 to the Knights' Order. Mandatory condition of the emperor: one peregrine falcon, each year as a gift.After this story, a new subspecies appeared - the Maltese.