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Great News - Peregrine Falcon numbers and range increase.

The Peregrine Falcon – Falco peregrinus has expanded its range and increased in abundance in South Africa over the past two decades according to the distribution patterns between SABAP1 and SABAP2.  The most interesting changes are in the Western Cape, with a three-fold increase in this population since SABAP1.

The Peregrine Falcon - Falco peregrinus minor - can be found in every continent of the world excluding Antarctica, with some sub-species that are resident and with others that are migratory. It is sparsely and patchily distributed throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa and widespread in Southern Africa. It is non-migratory and lives mostly along mountain ranges and increasingly in cities. The name "peregrine" means wanderer.


The male and female have similar markings and plumage, but the female is up to 30% larger than the male. The back and the long pointed wings of the adult are usually bluish black to slate grey with indistinct darker barring and the wingtips are black. The white to rusty underparts are barred with thin clean bands of dark brown or black. The tail, coloured like the back but with thin clean bars, is long, narrow, and rounded at the end with a black tip and a white band at the very end. The top of the head and a "moustache" along the cheeks are black, contrasting sharply with the pale sides of the neck and white throat. The cere is yellow, as are the feet, and the beak is black. The upper beak is notched near the tip, an adaptation which enables falcons to kill prey by severing the spinal column at the neck. The immature bird is much browner with streaked, rather than barred, underparts, and has a pale bluish cere and orbital ring. Life span in the wild is up to 17 years.


Alarm call a loud series of harsh "kak, kak, kak.", also whining and chopping notes.


They feed almost exclusively on medium-sized birds such as feral pigeons, wild pigeons, doves and waterfowl. Powerful and fast-flying, they catch prey in the air with swift, spectacular dives, called stoops. They often sit on high perches, waiting for the right opportunity to make their aerial assault. The Peregrine Falcon hunts at dawn and dusk, when prey is most active, but also nocturnally in cities.

The peregrine falcon is well known for its mid-air attacking of other birds, in which it will climb to a great height and dive to grab the other bird with its claws. During these dives, the bird can reach a speed of 242 miles per hour, making it the fastest animal on Earth. To help the bird achieve such high speeds, it has developed a unique respiratory system. Instead of the typical two-way breathing systems used by most animals, the peregrine falcon has a one-way system that allows it to breathe continuously while flying. It still inhales oxygen and dispels carbon dioxide, but the uniqueness is in the flow since the bird's breath follows a straight path. The species also has unique nostrils, which are shaped like a cone. This allows it to better control its air intake and the concept were recently applied to the design of jet aircraft.


Peregrine Falcons nest on cliffs, tall buildings or tall structures.  Males select a few possible nest ledges at the beginning of each season and the female chooses from these. The birds do no nest building. Breeding season is from late July to early November. It lays 1 to 4 eggs, which are mainly incubated by the female for between 32 to 36 days, while the male occasionally incubates in the day but is mostly focused on providing the female with food. The young are fed mainly by the male and they take first flight at between 42 to 46 days.

Conservation Status – Least concern

In the USA populations crashed in 1950-1970 because of DDT poisoning; eastern population extirpated. It was declared an Endangered Species, and extensive efforts were made to reestablish birds in East, beginning with the work of Tom Cade in 1970 at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which eventually developed into the Peregrine Fund. The species recovered enough to be removed from the Endangered Species List in 1999. Not threatened globally but Near-threatened in South Africa, probably due to a combination of persecution in city centres, susceptibility to agrochemicals, nest site disturbance, deforestation and river impoundment.


Ask Aves Birding Tours/Safaris/Adventures to create a custom tour for you to see these charismatic raptors, or book on one of the following scheduled Aves Birding Tours/Safaris/Adventures: -

Aves Eastern Cape Birding Tour / Safari /Adventure.

Aves Highlands / Tembe Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves Western Cape Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves West Coast Birding Tour / Safari /Adventure.


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