The relationship between Peregrine Falcons and humans goes back thousands of years. Once highly prolific and widespread throughout the world, Peregrine Falcons were commonly used throughout Europe, Asia and the Middle East in the practice of Falconry. Peregrines are naturally docile and easily lent themselves to taming by humans who saw the Falcon's hunting prowess as an asset in hunting for food. The Peregrine’s magnificent speed and power also made it the favorite bird for falconers in the Middle Ages. The female, which is slightly larger and more powerful than the male, was preferred, and only she is given the title of “falcon.” A male Peregrine is referred to as a “tiercel” meaning third. Although falconry has fallen out of favor, there are still those who practice it today.
Falcons are raptors - which means they are birds which hunt and kill for food.
They are very well adapted to the hunt, with strong, sharp, curved beaks for
tearing flesh, large, keen eyes for viewing prey at great distances, and sharp,
powerful claws (called talons) for clutching, and grasping their quarry.
Other birds, such as pigeons, blackbirds, ducks, and pheasants, are the flacon’s usual prey. Peregrines' incredible speed is the primary weapon used to kill their prey during the hunt. When they get ready to strike, they close their talons and strike the bird in a plunging dive, usually knocking the bird unconscious with a single blow. The force of the initial strike is so severe that the bird is usually killed on impact. As the victim falls through the air the falcon circles back and picks its prey out of the air with its claws. If the bird survives the initial blow, the Peregrine will break its neck with a quick strike of its powerful beak to the bird’s spine.
The Peregrine Falcon is easily recognizable as distinct from other raptors. It has black feathers on its head, sort of in the pattern of a helmet, with dark feathers around its beak that look kind of like a dark mustache (remember "mutton chops" in the 1970s?) You could say it looks like a "biker" hawk. The feathers on its back are dark, with a bluish cast. The tips of the falcon's wings are very sharply "pointed", making a striking and unique silhouette during flight
The peregrine is the fastest bird on record reaching horizontal cruising speeds of 65-90 kmh ( 40-55 mph) and not exceeding speeds of 105-110 kmh (65-68 mph). When stooping, the peregrine flies at much greater speeds however, varying from 160-440 kmh (99-273 mph)!
Pairs of Peregrines mate for life, usually setting
up housekeeping high in the cliffs. Since we're running out of cliffs in Europe
and the U.S. Peregrines have taken to building their nests up on top of high
rise buildings in large cities. Peregrine nests are called scrapes, or eyries
and baby falcons are called eyasses. Although they have a high mortality
rate, Peregrines have been known to live as long as 15 years.
To view the falcon in flight, click on Peregrine Falcon
(enlarge to full screen)