YOUR WEEKLY DOSE OF WOWZERS AND WONDER FROM THE NATURAL WORLD
Blink and you might just miss this week’s feathered friend if it’s moving at full speed.
With a screech and a stoop, it’s capable of capturing its next meal before its victim even knows what happened.
This week, we’re talking about the record-setting peregrine falcon!
With a wingspan of up to 115 centimetres (nearly 4 feet) and a length of up to 58 centimetres (nearly 2 feet), peregrines are hard to miss as they soar through the skies looking for smaller birds to turn into a meal.
They’re fairly easy to identify with their blue-grey back, barred white underpants, nearly black head, dark eyes, long pointed wings,and short tail.
They get their name from the Latin word for “wanderer” and the name fits them well.
You can find peregrines on every continent except for Antarctica.
They typically live around 15 years or so, spending most of their time travelling the world.
However, they always return to the same place to nest—even if that means spanning half the world to do so!
Capable of diving at speeds reaching 389 kilometres (242 miles) per hour, the peregrine falcon is both the fastest diving bird in the worldand the fastest animal in the world.
They do this with the help of some super specialized body parts.
Nostril adaptations help smooth and slow airflow while they’re diving to prevent them from hurting their lungs, and a third eyelid protects their eyes without obscuring their vision.
Pair the peregrine’s blazing speed with the ability to see more than three kilometres (1.86 miles) away, and small birds don’t stand a chance against this fearsome falcon.
They love to eat pigeons andother small birds, such as young ducks, quails, moorhens, plovers, and starlings.
In a pinch, they’ll even steal a fish from other falcons!
Peregrines mate for life and are well known for adapting to urban environments, building nests on skyscrapers, cathedral steeples, and on towers of factoriesor electrical grids.
According to the Canadian Wildlife Foundation, urban peregrine nests have been found in Edmonton, Red Deer, Calgary, Saskatoon, Regina, Brandon, Winnipeg, London, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, and Saint John.
Peregrine moms will lay up to 7 dark brown, speckled edges per clutch of eggs, which take around a month to hatch.
The young chicks will stay with their parents for up to two months, learning important skills before leaving the nest forever.
What a short childhood!
At one time, the birds were considered an endangered species. However, recent decades have seen peregrine populations soar.
While they’re still at risk in Canada, they’re nowconsidered fairly healthy or recovering in most regions of the world.
They’re popular among falconers, so a local raptor or bird of prey centre is probably your best chance of seeing one up close.
However, they are also native to Canada’s coastal and arctic regions, calling the tall cliffs their home.
Peregrine falcon chicks grow 10 times their birth size in the first three weeks of their life! Talk about a growth spurt!
These fast flyers typicallydive in a slight curve as they see best when theirheads are tilted at 40 degrees.
While they have fearsome talons and a sharp beak, peregrines are also known to strike their prey with a clenched fist—essentially knocking them out like the world’s fastest professional boxer!
We’ve been friends with peregrines for a long time! Falconers in Asia used peregrines to hunt small prey more than 3,000 years ago!
See the peregrine falcon in action in this up-close look over the historic streets of Rome, Italy, presented by the Smithsonian Channel