Length: 36 – 50 cm
Wingspan: 86 – 115 cm
Weight: 550 – 1,500 g
Peregrine falcons have dark slate-grey upperparts with a lighter area on the lower back. The underparts are white and the lower breast and belly are grey with black bars. They have long pointed wings with black and white bars and the tail has grey and white bars.
On the head peregrine falcons have a black crown and nape, and white cheeks. The bill is grey with a black tip and yellow cere, the eyes are black with a yellow eye-ring, and the legs and feet are yellow.
Male and females look similar, although the female is larger and heavier than the male.
Juvenile peregrine falcons are brown with buff underparts streaked with black. The upperparts have pale edges to the feathers and the eye-ring and cere are duller than adults.
Peregrine falcons breed from late February to mid-April, and return to the same nesting site year after year. They produce one or two broods a year. They nest on high cliffs but also in cities and towns on the ledges of tall buildings such as churches and skyscrapers. The male selects the nest site which is scrape lined with fine grasses and other vegetation.
Peregrine falcons lay 3-5 creamy-white eggs speckled with rust, which are incubated mainly by the female for 29-32 days. The male will sometimes help and brings food to the nest.
Chicks are born covered with pale cream down and have large feet. They fledge at about 35-45 days but remain with their parents for another few weeks. The male hunts for food and the female plucks the feathers before she feeds the chicks, until eventually they learn to catch prey from their parents. At six weeks they are fully independent and reach sexual maturity when they are 2 or 3 years old.
Peregrine falcons eat mainly birds such as pigeons, doves, waterfowl, and small songbirds. They will also take small reptiles and mammals including bats, squirrels, and rodents.
Peregrine falcons hunt at dawn and dusk. They hunt on the wing or from a high perch and will eat small prey in flight.
Where to see them
Peregrine falcons can be seen all year round across the UK except the highlands of Scotland. Look out for them around rocky cliffs and upland areas during breeding season.
John V. Moore/xeno-canto
Did you know?
Peregrine falcons are the fastest flying birds in the world reaching speeds of over 390 km/h in a dive.