Physical Description

  • Adult: dark gray coloration on back, white underneath with fine dark bars across white belly. Blackish head and black sideburns, with yellow eye-ring. Yellow small, sharply hooked beak. Long pointed wings, with black and white checkering all across underbelly and underwings.
  • Juveniles: More buff colored underparts, densely streaked in dark brown. Brown mask, instead of black, no yellow eye-ring or yellow around beak. Pale eyebrow and whisker pattern.


  • One of the most widely distributed warm-blooded terrestrial vertebrates.
  • Breeding: found almost all over the world; absent as a breeder only from the Amazon Basin, the Sahara Desert, central and eastern Asia, and Antarctica. In North America, breed in parts of central US, but mainly in northern Canada, Alaska, and Greenland.
  • Non-breeding: in coastal California and most of Mexico, the populations are seen year-round, while in inland California, the population is only there during non-breeding months. Seen throughout the gulf coast in non-breeding months.
  • Migrating: Migrate throughout all of inland United States and Canada and southwestern Alaska.


  • Nearly any open habitat during migration, with preference for barrier islands, mudflats, coastlines, lake edges, and mountain chains.
  • Nest at elevations of up to 12,000 feet, as well as along rivers, coastlines, and in cities.


  • May mate for life.
  • Territorial and courtship displays include high circling flights by male, spectacular dives and chases by both sexes.
  • Male feeds female during nesting.
  • Nest on cliff ledge, hollow of tree, on tall buildings or bridges, or sometimes in old nests of other birds. Do not build nest, but lay eggs in simple scrape.
  • Female lays 2-5 eggs of 2 inch length, and incubates them for 29-32 days.
  • The hatchlings are helpless, covered in white down, with eyes closed.


  • Eat many hundreds of species of birds, swooping down on them mid-flight.
  • Ducks, grebes, ptarmigan, gulls, storm-petrels, pigeons, jays, thrushes, hummingbirds, longspurs, buntings, larks, waxwings, starlings, Sandhill Crane, White-throated Swift.
  • Rodents, bats, and fish are eaten, sometimes pirated from other raptors.


  • Gyrfalcons, eagles, Great horned owls, other Peregrines.

Interesting Facts

  • The name Peregrine means wanderer, due to their large migration patterns. They have one of the longest migrations of any North American bird. They can move more than 15,000 miles in a year! 
  • Peregrine falcons were virtually eradicated from eastern North America in the 1950s-70s due to pesticides, especially DDT, but have made an incredible comeback since then.
  • They are one of, if not, the fastest bird in the world. They are able to reach 69 mph when pursuing their prey, and as they drop straight down upon their prey, they can even reach speeds of 238 mph!

Hear a Peregrine Falcon’s call

Sources:;; Audubon Field Guide

Photo: Matthew Meier