New York Natural Heritage Program
Peregrine Falcon
Falco peregrinus Tunstall, 1771

Identifying Characteristics [-]
A strong face pattern distinguishes Peregrine Falcons from other falcons. Diagnostic field characteristics include a black hood, broad, dark brown wedge below the eye, and pale underparts with spots and dark bars. The nesting area used by Peregrine Falcons is known as an eyrie. Eyries are typically an unlined scrape on a cliff ledge or rocky outcrop. If in similar habitat, they may use abandoned raven or hawk nests. Peregrine Falcons will also choose man-made structures such as bridges and tall buildings. Eggs are cream or buff-colored and covered with red-brown markings. From the eyrie, a repeated "we'chew" can be heard. The alarm call is a harsh, rapid "kak, kak, kak".

Behavior [-]
Peregrine Falcons hunt anytime during the day but they appear to hunt most frequently in the morning and to a lesser extent toward the evening. At the beginning of the breeding season courtship begins with aerial acrobatics, including circling, figure eights, and undulating flights, by both the male and female. Courtship feeding may occur. The average home range has a radius of approximately 5-7.5 miles (8-12 kilometers). The foraging range has a radius of approximately 17 miles (27 kilometers).

Diet [-]
Peregrine Falcons feed primarily on birds ranging in size from medium-size song birds up to small waterfowl. Young birds may also eat insects.
Peregrine Falcon Images
click to enlarge
The Best Time to See
The best time to observe Peregrine Falcons is at the peak of their breeding season (March-June) when they are more likely to remain close to the nesting site. Fall migrants move along the coast in the greatest numbers in late September to late October.
Present Breeding
The time of year you would expect to find Peregrine Falcon present (blue shading) and breeding (orange shading) in New York.
Similar Species
  • American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)
    American Kestrels are much smaller and have a double wedge below the eye.
  • Gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus)
    Gyrfalcons are much larger and lack the broad, dark brown wedge (sideburns) below the eye.
  • Merlin (Falco columbarius)
    Merlins are smaller than Peregrine Falcons. The black wedge (sideburns) below the eye is smaller.