Family:Falconidae (falcons and caracaras) in the order Falconiformes
Peregrines have a black crown and nape, with a black wedge extending below the eye. They are white and dark narrow-barred below, and gray blue above. The wings extend nearly as far as the tip of the tail.
Size:Length: 15-21 inches (tip of bill to tip of tail); wingspan: 38–45 inches. Females are larger.
Habitat and conservation:Historically, peregrines nested in small numbers on bluffs along the Mississippi, Missouri, and Gasconade rivers. By the late 1800s only a few pairs remained in the state. Reintroduction projects have been relatively successful, and populations of peregrines have been established, with the birds using tall buildings as substitutes for cliff nesting sites, and more returning to former nest sites on suitable bluffs.
Foods:Primarily other birds. In urban areas, peregrines hunt starlings, pigeons, and other city birds, sometimes devouring them on office or apartment window ledges—giving a new meaning to the phrase “concrete jungle.”
Distribution in Missouri:Statewide.
Status:Endangered, formerly extirpated in our state. Reintroduction efforts hold promise for returning peregrines to our state, and their one day being classified as "rare permanent residents."
Life cycle:Many of the peregrines living in Missouri’s urban centers were captive-raised and now use nest boxes and other suitable locations on tall buildings for their eggs. Nests in the wild are typically a “scrape” with accumulated debris on ledges and cliffs and in old tree cavities. Eggs, numbering 3–4, are typically laid from April through June. Incubation lasts for 29–32 days, and it takes 35–42 days for the young to fledge.
Human connections:Peregrine falcons have been prized by falconers since ancient times for their ability to hunt prey. Today, people are thrilled by their intensely fast flight and maneuvering ability. As this species has neared extinction, humans have rallied to save it—attesting to our appreciation of peregrines.
Ecosystem connections:This top predator specializes in eating other birds, and that’s one reason for its extremely fast and agile flight. In cities, peregrines feast on urban pigeons and starlings. In the wild, however, young peregrines often fall prey to great horned owls.