The genus Falco is the most widespread landbird family in the world; its seventeen races covering every landmass except the high arctic and antarctic. The Peregrine Falcon is the most successful falcon in the world. Almost wherever there are falcons, the peregrine is there.
Man's interference has, however, severely fragmented the distribution, and in some parts of its range the peregrine falcon has faced the threat of local extinction.
The Bristish peregrines were persecuted by all and sundry until relatively recently, including officialdom which encouraged their execution during two World Wars to protect carrier pigeons.
Now that numbers are recovering after the DDT menace, (thanks mainly to captive breeding techniques developed by falconers permitting extensive breed-and-release schemes) there are calls from pigeon fanciers and gamekeepers for more culling of this fine bird
The Peregrine Falcon is a highly specialised feeder, concentrating almost entirely on birds, and favouring pigeons (wild, feral and homing) and gamebirds with local concentrations on seabirds in colony and crows.
On occasions it will take mammals, reptiles, amphibians and even fish, but these are likely to be localised and temporary changes from the prey that they were designed to exploit.
The average daily food requirement for an adult Peregrine is 130g (4 oz)
The peregrine is normally quiet when away from its nest area.
When disturbed, however, it gives out a persistent harsh, screeching chatter - the female's being fiercer and more powerful than the male's.
Status and behaviour in the wild
The Peregrine Falcon, to most people, is the very epitome of British birds of prey. It symbolises speed, flying skill and hunting prowess.
The bird is quite easy to identify in the air as their distinctive, strong flight makes them stand out, whilst at close range the black head and obvious "moustache" set them apart from other falcons.
Throughout the country their nest sites are, where known, a closely guarded secret, and the penalties for disturbing the nest of this highly protected bird are very severe.
Much is said about the flying speed of the Peregrine Falcon, and many claims have been made, ranging from 125mph (200 Kph) to more than double that!
The peregrine falcon has a normal cruising speed of about 40mph (65 kph) and can, in short bursts of level flight, achieve speeds approaching 70mph (110kph). There are many factors influencing its maximum speed in a stoop, or dive. These include its size, weight, height above sea level, air temperature, atmospheric pressure and many others.
It is not our intention to join the debate about this bird's speed - when it is in flight, it is enough for us to enjoy its spectacular displays of its mastery of the air!