Peregrine Falcon

Manuel Lara talks about the “Importance of superpredators” in ecosystems.


Falco peregrinus (Tunstall, 1771)

Order: Falconiformes

Family: Falconidae


They have long, tapered wings and a slim, short tail. This species has white face with a black stripe on each cheek and large, dark eyes, as well as slate and blue-gray wings, black bars on their backs and pale underbellies. Usually, females are slightly larger than males.


This species is found almost worldwide, preferring open habitats, such as grasslands, tundra, and meadows, being most common in tundra and coastal areas. They usually nest on cliff faces and crevices but have recently begun to colonize urban areas, using tall buildings for nesting and pigeons as prey items. They migrate long distances between breeding and winter ranges, hence their name.


They have suffered due to their dangerous position on top of the food chain, since pesticides accumulate in small (not lethal) quantities in the tissues of small species, like birds and mammals, but become concentrated enough in predatory birds that eat them, such as falcons. Pesticides such as DDT and dieldrin have been proven to reduce the birds’ ability to produce eggshells with sufficient calcium content, making them thin and more likely to break. This caused F. peregrinus populations to drop precipitously in the middle of the 20th century. A successful captive breeding and reintroduction program, combined with restrictions in pesticide use, has been the basis of an amazing recovery.