By Russ Chappell
The word “peregrine” means “wanderer” or “pilgrim,” and Peregrine Falcons reside world-wide. Thanks to captive breeding and a 1972 ban on DDT, this species has risen from near extinction in the 20th century to now populate every continent except Antarctica.
The United States-Canada Stewardship rates peregrines as 10 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, but it is no longer on the State of North America’s Birds Watch List. However, their breeding areas, especially in the Prescott area, are monitored and protected during certain times of the year, and you should check with the Prescott National Forest Service before entering a Peregrine Falcon breeding area to avoid issues.
Considered the fastest animal on earth, at least in a dive or “stoop” the Peregrine Falcon is capable of speeds of over 200 MPH, able to withstand 18G, and possesses exceptional vision which is protected by special membranes at high speed. They are capable of bringing down prey twice their size with their powerful talons and a unique beak.
Adaptable to almost any habitat some Peregrines migrate over 15,000 miles a year, while other choose to call a selected region home year-round.
In coastal areas nests are usually built on cliffs in “eyries” however being extremely adaptable many reside in cities with high skyscrapers that provide both elevation and a variety of birds to hunt.
The chicks are born completely depended on their parents and receive intense training for over three months before becoming self-sufficient.
Peregrine Falcons prey on a wide variety of birds, as many as 450 species in North America and 2,000 worldwide. They feed on birds as large as the Sandhill Crane, as small as a hummingbird, and as elusive as a Swift. They also consume large numbers of bats and may pirate fish and rodents from other raptors.
If you are a frequent visitor to our numerous Prescott-area lakes, there is a good chance you will be rewarded with spotting one of these magnificent birds in action as they seek their next meal. You will certain remember the experience.
Visit Prescott Audubon Society at PrescottAudubon.Org. Contact them at Contact@PrescottAudubon.Org.
IMAGES FROM TOP: Peregrine Falcon with Prey by Walt Anderson. Peregrine Falcon in Lake Havasu City by John West.