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Peregrine Falcon

Falco peregrinus

Length: 16 - 20 inches Wingspan: 40 - 48 inches Seasonality: Migrant
ID Keys: "Hooded" effect, dark upperparts, white underparts with dark barring

Peregrine Falcon - Falco peregrinus The Peregrine Falcon is generally considered as one of the fastest birds in the world, reaching speeds of nearly 200 miles per hour when diving after prey. They can be found throughout much of the world, but are usually uncommon. Exposure to DDT and similar pesticides resulted in a severe decline in North America by 1970.  They are listed as "endangered" in the state of South Dakota.

Habitat: Can be found in a very wide variety of habitats, where ever suitable nest sites are available.  Is more common near water, especially along coastlines.

Diet: Primarily feeds on birds.  Often feeds on ducks, geese, and shorebirds near water.  Those adapted to city life (including those reintroduced to specially built nesting platforms on tall buildings) often feed nearly exclusively on Pigeons.  They will also occasionally eat small mammals or large insects.

Behavior: Spectacular hunter, often flying very high, and then diving at extreme speed to strike prey in mid-air.  They will also sometimes hunt from a perch, or while flying low over the ground.  Paired birds may mate for life.

Nesting: May through July

Breeding Map: Only a pair of nesting records from South Dakota, one from 1925 in Harding County, and one from 1945 in Pennington County.

Song: Usually silent, but will make a loud kyaah-kyaah when disturbed near its nest. 

Migration: Permanent resident throughout much of the western United States and the western Canada coast.  Birds summering throughout Canada, Alaska, and the Great Lakes region migrate south in the fall, with some going all the way to South America.

Interactive eBird Map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Peregrine Falcon sightings

Similar Species: Prairie Falcon, Gyrfalcon

Conservation Status: Reproduction failure due to pesticide exposure caused a rapid and severe decline by 1970.  Still uncommon throughout most of its former range, reintroduction programs and natural reproduction are resulting in slowly increasing numbers (and range).

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Peregrine Falcon

2) Cornell University's "All About Birds - Peregrine Falcon"

3) Peregrine Falcon

Photo Information: Colored pencil drawing by Terry Sohl

Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Peregrine Falcon - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Uncommon to rare migrant, more common in the spring.  Rare winter visitor.

Additional Peregrine Falcon Images
Click for a higher-resolution version of these images
Peregrine Falcon - Drawing by Terry Sohl