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Peregrine falcon are among the world’s most common birds of prey and live on all continents except Antarctica. They prefer wide-open spaces, and thrive near coasts where shorebirds are common, but they can be found everywhere from tundra to deserts. Peregrines are even known to live on bridges and skyscrapers in major cities.

Nesting and Migration

These birds may travel widely outside the nesting season—their name means “wanderer.” Though some individuals are permanent residents, many migrate. Those that nest on Arctic tundra and winter in South America fly as many as 15,500 miles in a year. Yet they have an incredible homing instinct that leads them back to favored aeries. Some nesting sites have been in continuous use for hundreds of years, occupied by successive generations of falcons.

Population Rebound

Peregrine populations were in steep decline during the mid-20th century, and in the United States these beautiful falcons became an endangered species. The birds have rebounded strongly since the use of DDT and other chemical pesticides was curtailed. Captive breeding programs have also helped to boost the bird’s numbers in the U.S. and Canada. Now populations are strong in those nations, and in some parts of the globe, there actually may be more peregrines than existed before the 20th-century decline.

There are four main types of birds used in falconry today. All of these are of the same order – Falconiformes.
Taxonomic Classification:

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Falconiformes

The birds in each genus are ordered from smallest to largest to help give an idea of how they all relate. Likewise, the males of most species are smaller than the females, although the sizes may have some range of overlap. Because of the niche that the males occupy, they also tend to be a little more skittish, nervous, and on the move than the females, yet they also seem to be able to be hunted later into the spring than the females as their own biological niche is to continue hunting and not to be waited on.

Hawks, Accipiters, and Eagles are more closely related to each other than to Falcons. They are all in family Accipitridae. They all share some common features such as large, oval nostrils and incompletely ossified nostril bones. These birds all have strong feet and talons which is their main weapon. Accipiters and Buteos also start moulting the primaries with the 10th primary (the one farthest from the body). Falcons start moulting their primaries with the 7th primary from the wing tip, or the 4th from the body. Each has 10 primary feathers per wing. Falcons can be distinguished from those in family Accipitridae by the shape of their beak, their eye color, nostril shape, tail length relative to their body size, and wing relative to their body. At a distance there is a distinct difference in their flight

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