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Peregrine (Falcon)

Both sexes: Slate-grey, dark crown and moustache. Pale underparts with dark spots on breast.

The Peregrine is a large, powerfully built falcon with long pointed wings and relatively short tail. The female (falcon) is larger than the male (tercel), otherwise the appearance of the sexes is similar. For comparison of its size, it is roughly between Sparrowhawk and Goshawk.

They are a bird mostly of uplands and rocky coastline, especially during the breeding season (summer), but move to lowland areas - estuaries and farmland - in the winter. Their breeding range is extending in to our cities.

The adult has slate-grey upperparts with darker head and wings. The underparts are pale with spotted breast and barring on the underside of the wing (underwing). The head has a dark crown and very distinctive black moustache on an otherwise whitish face. The tail has narrow dark bands. The eye ring, cere and legs are yellow.

Juveniles have buff-grey upperparts and dark brown streaks on the pale underparts. The eye ring, cere, and legs are grey-blue.


In flight, Peregrine looks anchor-shaped and is fast and agile, usually with fast wing beats followed by a long glide.

Scientific Name Falco peregrinus
Length 40-50 cm (16-20")
Wing Span 95-115 cm (38-46")
Weight 600-750 g (1½lb - 2lb)
Breeding Pairs 1500
Present All Year
Status Green

Distribution map - when and where you are most likely to see the species.


Peregrines have a number of different calls but one of the more distinctive is a shrill "kee-arrrk kee-arrrk".


© Jean Roché,


Peregrines feed mainly on medium sized birds, such as pigeons, game birds and gulls that it catches in flight. When its usual prey is in short supply, mammals (e.g. rabbits) and carrion are eaten.

They usually attack birds in mid-air at high speed, reaching speeds of up to 300 kph (about 190 miles per hour), by diving from high up with its wings almost closed. The Peregrine strikes the prey with its talons, and the impact of the blow either kills the prey or knocks it unconscious, the hooked bill then being used to deliver a killing bite to the back of the neck.


Peregrines breed in a wide range of habitats, but nest on a ledge or rocky outcrop. They are spreading into lowland areas and cities where they will nest on tall buildings, such as churches or office blocks.

The eggs are creamy with red-brown blotches, smooth and non-glossy, and about 55 mm by 40 mm. The male and female take turns incubating the eggs, but most of the incubation is done by the hen. Both adults feed the young.

Breeding Starts Clutches Eggs Incubation (days) Fledge (days)
March 1 2-6 28-29 c.35-42


British Peregrines are mostly sedentary, though some move from the uplands to lowlands for the winter (altitudinal migration).

Some Scandinavian birds winter in Britain.


Peregrines have for a long time been persecuted, chiefly by gamekeepers and racing pigeon keepers, but their numbers continue to recover and they are no longer a species of conservation concern.