THE PEREGRINE FALCON Essay, Research Paper
Speech topic: The Peregrine Falcon
Specific purpose: to inform my audience about the size, appearance, range, hunting and eating habits,
and other characteristics.
ANECDOTE –One afternoon an American pilot stationed in Germany was in a free dive with his jet,
engines on but not propelling him downward faster than gravity would allow. He looked
out to his side and saw a small bird in a dive nearby. He was surprised to see a bird this
close to the plane, but not nearly as surprised as he was when he noticed that it was going
faster than him, literally passing him. It was a Peregrine Falcon.
I. Falcons are the most streamlined birds of prey.
A. The Peregrine Falcon has been determined to be the fastest moving animal known to man.
1. It has been clocked electronically traveling at 217 miles per hour in a dive of 45 degrees in
2. It has been calculated that a Peregrine may be able to reach speeds upwards of 250 miles per
hour in a vertical stoop, or dive.
3. The Peregrine’s ability to reach such speeds poses more problems than one might think. It
does not merely have to be streamlined; the bones, sinews, and muscles must be able to
withstand the forces put upon them during maneuvering and braking and its senses must be
highly refined and its reactions quick.
4. It also has to breathe during its dives. For this its nostrils are modified so that the flow of air
is broken up with a ridge around the nostril, a rod inside it, and two fins at the end of the rod
allowing it to breathe easily. A similar structure is found in most other fast flying birds of
B. The Peregrine Falcon shares its characteristics with 52 other species of falcon worldwide. Five
of them are found on the east coast, the American Kestrel, the Merlin, the Prairie Falcon, the
Gyrfalcon, and the Peregrine Falcon.
1. Falcons have pointed wings and narrow, longish tails.
2. They also fly with quick wingbeats similar to those of a pigeon.
3. They all hunt in a similar manner, diving at their prey from above.
II. The Peregrine’s speed makes it a dangerous predator.
A. Prey is caught after a swift dive with nearly closed wings and is either killed in the air by being
struck at about half of its top diving speed with the talons or is carried to the ground
B. They also sweep birds from their perches or from the ground, as evident from their occasional
thefts of poultry
C. Peregrines feed mainly on birds but also on mammals such as young hares and mice and
occasionally amphibians and insects.
D. Because of its size, 15-20″, about the size of a crow, pigeons are a favorite prey, grouse are
often caught on moors, and seabirds usually around cliffs.
E. After catching their prey, it is taken to a special feeding place where it is plucked before being
F. The Peregrine’s hunting ability is also used to keep other birds away from airfields.
G. In the Arabian deserts, trained Peregrines are even flown at such birds as large as buzzards,
often times killing up to seven or eight of them a day, to keep them off certain areas of
III. The Peregrine is found all over the world.
A. Most often the Peregrine lives in rocky mountainous areas or along the coastline on sea cliffs,
where its appearance blends in best.
1. Its patterns and coloration are clear indicators of its species.
a. The most striking characteristic, the main indicator of the Peregrine, are its heavy, slate-blue
to black “sideburns,” which probably absorb light so as to minimize the glare from the
ground, enabling it to see its prey more clearly.
b. The adults are slaty-backed, and barred and spotted on white below.
c. The young birds are brown and heavily streaked, rather than barred and spotted.
B. Sometimes they are found in forests, on open plains, and on moors.
C. More recently they have been introduced to and/or nested on their own on the ledges of
skyscrapers, cathedrals, or other tall buildings in urban areas.
IV. Peregrines mate for life and use the same nest site year after year.
A. Each pair protects its own territory, and the size of a pairs territory is dependent on the
abundance of food.
B. In mountains or cliffs where prey is abundant, there may be a pair every couple of miles.
Where food is more scarce, territories may cover tens of square miles.
C. A nest site may be just a smooth bare spot of rock, or it may be an abandoned nest of some
D. If the Peregrines are not feeding or caring for their young, they will either perch in a favorite
spot or will circle around above their territory.
V. During breeding season the male calls out and flies back and forth from the nest site, and when the
female arrives the two will dive and tumble through the air letting out frequent shrieks in an almost
A. Nest sites for hatching eggs are most often found in a place totally inaccessible unless you are
a bird or an expert rock climber.
B. There are usually 3 or 4 eggs in each clutch, sometimes up to 6, which hatch after a period of
about one month.
C. During incubation, the male brings food to the female who leaves the nest on rare occasion,
usually to defend the nest. At the same time the female becomes very aggressive, attacking
almost all large birds or other large animals, including man, that come anywhere near the nest.
D. When the chicks hatch, the female keeps them covered all the time. After about two weeks she
begins to cover them only at night.
E. Still the male does almost all the hunting, bringing food to the female, who in turn feeds the
chicks. When the chicks get a little older the male may eventually give them food directly.
F. When the chicks are five to six weeks old they leave the nest, but continue to remain dependent
on their parents for approximately another two months, before going off on their own.
VI. As I said earlier Peregrines can be trained, often to be used in the sport of falconry.
A. The Peregrine Falcon is easily tamed, is a favorite among falconers, and has been since
B. It is also the most popular of all tamed birds of prey, because of its breathtaking accuracy and
its capability to fly under perfect control, even in high winds.
VII. As is the case with most birds of prey, the Peregrine Falcon is endangered.
A. The wide use of pesticides in the first half of the century was the main contributor to the
decline of most birds of prey.
1. The pesticides concentrated in trace amounts on the grains they we used on or it concentrated
in the water table.
2. The pesticide then became concentrated in the small animals which ate the grain or lived in
the surrounding waters.
3. In turn the birds then ate the small animals and the pesticide became concentrated in their
systems to such a point that they began to have trouble having fertilized eggs.
B. In Europe the Peregrine started to make its comeback around the time of World War Two, but
its population again was drastically reduced, this time purposely because it would prey upon
the carrier pigeons used to deliver messages during the war.
Hopefully, I have given you some new information on the Peregrine Falcon. If you have any more interest
in the Peregrine Falcon or any of the other birds of prey you can contact your nearest chapter of the
Audubon Society or your closest wildlife preserve. Your local library is also a good place to find more
information on the Peregrine Falcon and all other birds of prey.