The peregrine falcon is one of natures swiftest and most beautiful birds of prey. The name  comes from the latin word peregrinus, meaning foreigner or traveller in paticular pilgrim. As the name suggests the peregrine falcon is a migratory bird.

The peregrine falcon is the most widely distributed falcon in the world. It is found on every continent except for Antarctica. The falcon can be found nesting on or in any habitat where there is a stable food source and safety to raise the young.

The peregrine falcons are classified into subspecies. 22 subspecies are mentioned in literature.  Here are the names of some of the subspecies very often refered to: Falco peregrinus peregrinus, Falco peregrinus pealei, Falco peregrinus brookei, Falco peregrinus calidus, Falco peregrinus tundrius and Falco peregrinus anatum.  

Most European falconers use Falco peregrinus peregrinus.  A few use Falco peregrinus pealei. They are both considered large falcons, the females being far the largest.

Peregrine falcons prey upon a variety of other birds, such as songbirds, shorebirds, mallards, grouse and pigeons. Pigeons are the primary and most favoured by peregrine falcons.

The peregrine's recent history holds a cautionary tale. In the 1950s and '60s, these magnificent birds were nearly wiped out when their food chain was contaminated with pesticides, primarily DDT.




 A widespread use of pesticides in the industrialized part of the world had a devastating effect on the environment and the peregrine falcon in paticular. Unusually high concentrations of the pesticide DDT and its breakdown product DDE was found in peregrine falcons and other birds of prey. The peregrines accumulated DDT in their tissues by feeding on birds that had eaten DDT-contaminated insects or seeds. The toxic chemical interfered with eggshell formation. As a result, falcons laid eggs with shells so thin they often broke during incubation or otherwise failed to hatch. As too few young were raised to replace adults that died, peregrine populations seriously declined. In 1970 the peregrine was listed as an endangered species.

It was Rachel Carsonís classic book, 'Silent Spring', published in 1962, that energized  the environmental movement by revealing the widespread devastation caused by chemicals

After many of the most dangerous pesticides including DDT and PCB have been banned in great parts of the world, captive breeding and release programmes has had a positive effect on the survival of the species.

On August 25, 1999, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officially removed the American peregrine falcon from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife, recognizing the subspecies' recovery following restrictions on organochlorine pesticides in the United States and Canada, and following the implementation of successful management activities. Although delisting the peregrine removes it from the ESA's protection, it still will be protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, and state laws and regulations; and its status will be monitored for a minimum of five years

Even though the peregrine falcon has been removed from an American list one should not be lead to believe that the danger has disappeared. Considering the disastrous effect DDT and other pesticides has had on the environment, it is incredible that DDT is still produced and utilized  in large quantities in the developing countries. The peregrine falcon and many other birds of prey will hopefully stay on the CITES list.

If man does not change attitude regarding the use of pesticides many species of birds of prey in the foreseeable future may be removed from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. Not because they are no longer threatened but because they no longer exists.