Wildwood Zoo is proud to have one male peregrine falcon named Tuck. Our falcon came to us from a wildlife rehabilitation facility in Arizona. He was found injured (right wing fracture), and cannot be returned to the wild because of their injuries. Tuck traveled to Wildwood Zoo from Arizona by plane on Feb 19, 2014. The word “peregrine” means wanderer, and refers to the incredibly long distances peregrine falcons may travel between nesting and wintering grounds. Though the 2,000 mile trip from his home in Arizona to Wildwood Zoo may seem long, some falcons will fly more than 15,000 miles in a single year!
Peregrine falcons are the largest falcon through most of the continent, with long, pointed wings and a long tail. Be sure to look at shape as well as size—long primary feathers give the peregrine a long-winged shape. As with most raptors, males are smaller than females. Adults are blue-gray above with barred under parts and a dark head with thick sideburns. Juveniles are heavily marked, with vertical streaks instead of horizontal bars on the breast. Despite considerable age-related and geographic variation, an overall steely, barred look remains. Tundra-nesting falcons winter in South America, and may move 15,500 miles in a year. The peregrine falcon is a very fast flier, averaging 25-34 mph in traveling flight, and reaching speeds up to 69 mph in direct pursuit of prey. During its spectacular hunting stoop from heights of over 0.62 miles, the peregrine may reach speeds of 200 mph as it drops toward its prey. According to National Geographic, the highest measured speed of a Peregrine falcon is 242 mph!
The peregrine falcon is one of the most widespread birds in the world. It is found on all continents except Antarctica, and on many oceanic islands.
Peregrine falcons occur all over the world. In North America, they breed in open landscapes with cliffs (or skyscrapers) for nest sites. They can be found nesting at elevations up to about 12,000 feet, as well as along rivers and coastlines or in cities, where the local Rock pigeon populations offer a reliable food supply. In migration and winter you can find Peregrine falcons in nearly any open habitat, but with a greater likelihood along barrier islands, mudflats, coastlines, lake edges, and mountain chains.
Clutch Size: 2-5 eggs
Number of Broods: 1 brood
Incubation Period: 29-32 days
Males typically select a few possible nest ledges at the beginning of each season and the female chooses from these. The birds do no nest building beyond a ritualized scraping of the nest ledge to create a depression in the sand, gravel or other substrate of the nest site. Scrapes are about 9 inches in diameter and 2 inches deep. Typically, peregrine falcons nest on cliffs from about 25–1,300 feet high (and higher, including on the rim of the Grand Canyon). On these cliffs they choose a ledge that is typically around a third of the way down the cliff face. Other sites include electricity transmission towers, quarries, silos, skyscrapers, churches, and bridges. In the Pacific Northwest they may nest among or under Sitka spruce tree roots on steep slopes.
In the wild: 7-16 years
In human care: 25+ years
Peregrine falcons eat mostly birds, of an enormous variety—450 North American species have been documented as prey, and the number worldwide may be as many as 2,000 species. They have been observed killing birds as large as a sandhill crane, as small as a hummingbird, and as elusive as a white-throated swift. Typical prey include shorebirds, ptarmigan, ducks, grebes, gulls, storm-petrels, pigeons, and songbirds including jays, thrushes, longspurs, buntings, larks, waxwings, and starlings. Peregrine falcons also eat substantial numbers of bats. They occasionally pirate prey, including fish and rodents, from other raptors. They hunt by stooping, rapidly dropping and “punching” their prey in mid-air, knocking it out or killing it, and then catching it on its fall.