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The Peregrine Species
The Peregrine Species
Peregrine Falcon is the common name; the scientific name is Falco peregrinus. The name means "wandering falcon". Peregrines are a species of the order Falconiformes, family Falconidae which includes 39 species of falcons.
The peregrine is one of six falcons found in the United States. The others are Gyrfalcon, Prairie Falcon, Merlin, American Kestrel, and the Aplomado Falcon.

The Peregrine Falcon is cosmopolitan, meaning that the species is found around the world, from the Arctic to the South America. The subspecies found in the Eastern United States is anatum, and referred to as the American Peregrine Falcon.
Falcon Status and Conservation
Falcon Status and Conservation

The Peregrine Falcon was listed as an Endangered Species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1972 following the catastrophic decline of the species worldwide (see threats). In response and after the banning of DDT, the Peregrine Fund, a non-profit organization, was organized with a mission to reintroduce the species into North America.

Some of the earliest reintroduction sites included historic nesting areas in Pennsylvania during the 1970s. The Peregrine has subsequently experienced one of the most dramatic recoveries of any endangered species, and was formally removed from the federal list in 1999. The Peregrine Falcon continues to be listed by the Pennsylvania Game Commission as an Endangered species because of the small local population and continued threats.


Growth and Development

Growth and Development

Peregrine nest ledges are usually on cliffs or sometimes tall buildings and large bridges. The male and female falcon remain paired for life, and renew their bond with courtship activity during late winter and early spring. Their courtship is marked by special flight patterns, and by the male bringing the female food. The female peregrine lays her eggs at two-to-three day intervals, until her clutch has three to five eggs, with four the typical number. She shares the duties of incubation with her mate for approximately 31 days.

The eyasses, or baby falcons, hatch after spending about two days "pipping" the shells with the sharp egg tooth on their beaks. At hatching, eyasses weigh approximately 1 ½ ounces, are covered in a fluffy white down, and grow rapidly. Their down is replaced by feathers in three to five weeks and they are essentially full grown at six weeks of age.

Males develop a little faster than females. Females, however, are larger and more powerful when full grown. In the early weeks after hatch the female broods the young and feeds them with food brought her by the male. But as the demands for nourishment increase with their rapid growth, both male and female provide food for the young. By age 3 weeks they are moving about the nest site and beginning to tear meat from items brought them by their parents. Captive-raised birds released into the wild by the Hack Method are placed in the hack box at approximately 35 days of age. Between 40 and 45 days of age, young falcons begin to fly - a scary experience for the first few days. After about five days on the wind, the young falcons are much more adept.

Juvenile birds begin to hunt for food and care for themselves at nine to 12 weeks. First prey successfully hunted may be small game such as dragonflies and butterflies, but will soon improve to include small birds. Dispersal from the hack site occurs in September or October. Young banded in southern Canada were found to migrate south to Latin America although we honestly don't know where Pennsylvania's young go during their first winter. One-year old birds remain in their juvenile, streaked plumage for their first year. They typically move to a new territory during the following spring to either pair with an existing bird or set up their own territory. By their second hatch-date, they begin to loose their old brown feathers and replace them with the plumage of adults, slate-gray backs and a lighter colored breast. Birds may return to their release site or the general area, or may wander hundreds of miles away.

Mortality in the first year of life is very high. Those few peregrines that survive to old age may reach 12 to 15 years. Most peregrines become sexually mature at two or three years of age. Occasionally egg-laying and territorial behavior may occur earlier. An adult peregrine can reach a speed of over 200 miles per hour in a vertical dive called a stoop; in level flight they average about 60 miles per hour.

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