Peregrine Falcon, Falco peregrinus
Juvenile Peregrine Falcon, Heligoland (Germany) 2009
© Henning Werth
English: Peregrine Falcon, Peregrine
Scientific: Falco peregrinus
Spanish: Halcón peregrino
French: Faucon pèlerin
Taxonomy and Subspecies
The Barbary Falcon was often regarded as subspecies of the Peregrine Falcon, but is now considered a separate species by many sources. But not all experts have agreed on this.19 subspecies worldwide [GRIN 2014]. In Europe there are 3 subspecies:
- F.p. peregrinus : Everywhere in Europe except in the range of other subspecies
- F.p. brookei : around the Mediterranean
- F.p. calidus : tundras in northern Europe
Length: 38-45 cm
Wingspan: 90-105 cm
Weight: Males 580-720 g, Females 860-1,090 g
Almost 18 years in the wild. 25 years in captivity. [Mebs & Schmidt 2006]
Largest distribution of all raptors. Occurs on every continent except Antarctica. Extinct in some areas but thanks to conservation programs, has recolonized many formerly abandoned areas (for example in the USA).
Can be found in most European countries. Does not breed in Iceland and in many parts of eastern Europe.
Breeding and Reproduction
Food and hunting
Peregrine Falcons feed mostly on birds. In some places bats are also taken [GRIN 2014].
European population estimated at about 11,000 pairs [Mebs & Schmidt 2006]. The countries with the largest populations according to [BirdLife 2004] are:
- Spain: 2,400 – 2,700
- France: 1,100 – 1,400
- Russia: 1,000 – 1,200
- UK: 1,400
- Turkey: 1,500 – 3,000 (incl. the non European part of Turkey)
The German population has been estimated at 620 – 640 pairs by [BirdLife 2004], but in 2006 the population has already reached 945 pairs [Wanderfalke Bayern 2009].
Currently the population in Europe is increasing in most countries or is at least stable. Declining populations only in Turkey and Albania.The tree-nesting population in central and eastern Europe declined from c. 4,000 pairs to extirpation, before restoration efforts in Germany and Poland returned it to c. 20 pairs ((European Peregrine Falcon Working Group in litt. 2007,
The Peregrine Falcon is in some parts of Europe threatened by hybridization with hydris (e.g. Gyrfalcon and Peregrine) bred for falconry. If those birds escape they can breed with Peregrine Falcons in the wild and produce fertile offspring. This results in genetic contamination of the wild Peregrine population. A similar threat exists for the Saker Falcon.
Disturbance during the breeding season, for example in a quarry or on some buildings, can also be a problem.
Further threats are illegal persecution or the stealing of eggs although this threat is not as significant in many places as it used to be.
The Peregrine Falcon suffered a lot from pesticides (DDE, PCP) and some birds are still contaminated. There is always the possibility that new pesticides will have unknown consequences for the Peregrine.
For the currently very low tree nesting population, conservation measures are underway.
Pesticides should be reduced in the environment and organic farming should be encouraged. Before new pesticides are approved, very detailed studies are need about the effects on wildlife including birds of prey.
The breeding of falcon hybrids should be illegal (and laws enforced) across Europe so that no more hybrids can escape.
During the breeding season the nest sites on buildings, cliffs or in quarry should be kept free of disturbance.
Least Concern (LC)
Status Global Raptor Information Network
[BirdLife International 2004] BirdLife International. 2004. Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status. BirdLife Interntional. Cambridge, UK. (Peregrine Falcon species account available at: http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/BirdsInEuropeII/BiE2004Sp3622.pdf)[GRIN 2014] Global Raptor Information Network. 2009. Species account: Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 1 Nov. 2014
[Mebs & Schmidt 2006] Mebs, Theodor & Schmidt, Daniel (2006). Die Greifvögel Europas, Nordafrikas und Vorderasiens. Kosmos Verlag.
[Wanderfalke Bayern 2009] Arbeitsgruppe Wanderfalke in Bayern. 2009. Downloaded from http://www.wanderfalke-bayern.de/page2.html on 4 April 2009.
Forsman, Dick (1999). The Raptors of Europe and the Middle East A Handbook of Field Identification. PoyserMebs, Theodor & Schmidt, Daniel (2006). Die Greifvögel Europas, Nordafrikas und Vorderasiens. Kosmos Verlag.
Sielicki, Janusz & Mizera, Tadeusz (eds.) (2009). Peregrine Falcon Populations – Status and Perspectivees in the 21st century. Turul.