Common menu bar links

Species at Risk

Peregrine Falcon (anatum subspecies)

Falco peregrinus anatum

What is the Peregrine Falcon?

Two immature Peregrine Falcons resting in their nest
Peregrines lay their eggs in late April or early May and clutch size varies between 2 to 5 eggs.
© Parks Canada / WBNPC Photo Gallery

Peregrine falcons are predatory birds renowned for their grace and speed in the air. They are blue-gray in color on the back, rump, and upper surface of the wings, as well as on the crown. The dark feathers on the head resemble a hood with chinstraps. The throat is white and the white underside is speckled with dark horizontal bars. Like other falcons, the peregrines have a tooth-like projection on the upper half of their sharp hooked bill.

Peregrines are famous for their aerial hunting techniques. They dive at their bird prey from great heights, attacking at speeds that can exceed 300 km/hr. Prey are usually disabled or killed instantly in the air by a single blow from the clenched talons. Smaller birds may be snatched from the air, while larger birds may be allowed to tumble to the ground. Peregrines have special baffles in their nostrils, which allow them to breathe during their high-speed dives.

There are three subspecies of peregrines – anatum, Peale’s, and tundra. The anatum subspecies is most widely distributed throughout North America, and has experienced the greatest population decline.

Where is the Peregrine Falcon found?

Species at Risk - Who Knew?

Peregrine falcons can stoop dive to speeds of over 300 km/hr when attacking their bird prey. Their prey may range in size from smaller birds such as songbirds or flickers, to larger birds such as gulls and ducks.

Peregrine falcons (anatum subspecies) have traditionally nested south of the treeline throughout North America as well as in central and southern Mexico. In the mid-1930’s it was estimated that there were 1000 nesting pairs in North America. Widespread use of DDT in the 1950’s to 1960’s affected the birds’ reproduction, resulting in a dramatic decline in their population numbers. By 1975 there were only 35 nesting pairs left in Canada. Since then, peregrine populations have made a comeback due to effective conservation and recovery efforts, which included the banning of DDT in North America.

The Northeastern Alberta population of peregrines was discovered in 1971. The known nesting range for this small population extends from Lake Athabasca and Wood Buffalo National Park of Canada, to the Fort Smith region in the southern Northwest Territories. By 2005, this population had increased to 31 nesting pairs, from a low of nine pairs in 1990.