The Peregrine Falcon has a body length of 34 to 58 centimetres (13–23 in) and a wingspan of around 80 to 120 centimetres (31–47 in). The male and female have similar markings and plumage, but as in many birds of prey the Peregrine Falcon displays marked reverse sexual dimorphism in size, with the female measuring up to 30 percent larger than the male. Males weigh 440–750 g, and the noticeably larger females weigh 910–1500 g; for variation in weight between subspecies, see under that section below.
The back and long, pointed wings of the adult are usually bluish black to slate gray with indistinct darker barring ; the wingtips are black. The underparts are white to rusty and barred with thin clean bands of dark brown or black. The tail, colored like the back but with thin clean bars, is long, narrow and rounded at the end with a black tip and a white band at the very end. The top of the head and a "mustache" along the cheeks are black, contrasting sharply with the pale sides of the neck and white throat. The cere is yellow, as are the feet, and the beak and claws are black. The upper beak is notched near the tip, an adaptation which enables falcons to kill prey by severing the spinal column at the neck. The immature bird is much browner with streaked, rather than barred, underparts, and has a pale bluish cere.
Diet and HuntingEdit
The Peregrine Falcon feeds almost exclusively on medium sized birds such as doves, waterfowl, songbirds, waders and pigeons. Worldwide, it is estimated that between 1,500 and 2,000 bird species (up to roughly a fifth of the world's bird species) are predated by these falcons. Other than bats taken at night, it rarely hunts small mammals, but will on occasion take rats, voles, hares, mice and squirrels; the coastal populations of the large subspecies pealei feed almost exclusively on seabirds. The Peregrine Falcon hunts at dawn and dusk, when prey are most active, but in cities also nocturnally, particularly during migration periods when hunting at night may become prevalent.
It usually hunts birds by gliding high in the air or perching and when it sets eyes on it's prey it will go into a steep dive, or stoop as it is known, reaching speeds of up to 180mph (but has been recorded at 242mph) and snatching the unfortunate bird from the air. While its diet consists almost exclusively of medium-sized birds, the Peregrine will occasionally hunt small mammals, small reptiles or even insects.
It reaches sexual maturity at one year, and mates for life. The peregrine often nests on cliff ledges. They lay 3 or 4 eggs which are creamy white with brown and red markings. As is common with bird-eating raptors, the female is much bigger than the male.
Peregrines are birds found throughout most of Europe and Africa, excluding the Sahara Desert.