Welcome to the Peregrine Falcon
(originally created by Eric Tull)
PEREGRINE FALCONS (Falco peregrinus) AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CALGARY
by Elli Jilek
The 2010 season has started off very nicely, and early.
The first sighting I and others had of a peregrine was on April 19th. It
seems that 2 adult falcons were on hand from the start, or the female
joined the male a day or 2 after our first sighting. Mating was observed soon
thereafter, and normal behaviour occurred, with the male sharing prey with the
female on the library tower. The male has also been perched on the library sign,
a good indication that it may be the same as last year's. Until
someone identifies the band, however, this is a guess.
The nest area on Craigie Hall, despite the construction all around, has once
again become the residence for the falcons and over the weekend of April 24/25,
an egg was laid. Between the 26 and the 27th a second egg was laid, and we hope
to have more this week. Due to the inclement weather it is difficult to
impossible to see how many eggs the adult is sitting on. Although we have
managed to install a live web cam, the transmission isn't working well. We
hope to have it running properly soon, so pls. refer to this web page for that
Please report any problems or interesting sightings to me:
Webcam and Peregrine Information (Please report any broken links to
SOME CHARACTERISTICS OF PEREGRINE FALCONS
The large size, long-pointed wings and strong flight of the Peregrine Falcon
distinguishes it from most other birds of prey. They have been recorded at
speeds of up to 320 kmph (about 200 mph), when attacking prey mid-air. The Prairie Falcon
and Merlins are similar falcons, and all have been observed on campus. Merlins
are distinguished by the fact that they are smaller, have a 'higher ' call
pitch, and have white stripes on the inside lower tailwing - seen when they are
in flight. Merlins also prefer fir or other tall trees as habitat. Prairie
falcons are somewhat smaller and appear 'greyer' in tone and smaller overall.
They also prefer tall trees, as opposed to building roofs or ledges, which
peregrines use most often. Peregrines have such distinguishing marks as black or
dark grey crowns, a bluish area above the hooked beak, dark feathers on the
head which look like a hood with chinstraps (which can be seen from a distance),
and a piercing call. They have extremely sharp eyesight.
Young hatchlings are
fluffy and white for the first 2 weeks or so, and slowly develop darker,
stronger flight wings, starting close to the body. They appear larger than the
adults around the time of fledging, as their bodies are losing their 'babyfat'.
The adults have a dark blue/grey back, rump and upper surface of the wings. The
throat and underwing is white, with white-coloured chest feathers when mature.
For a closer look at the young and adult peregrines, please refer to the
- The female chicks weigh more at birth than the males, yet the males
are usually the first to fledge (leave the nest). As with most birds of prey, the female is considerably larger
than the male. Both parents protect the eggs (by sitting on them on a constant
basis), catch and bring prey for the young, and then by showing them how to fly
and catch prey in mid-air.
The peregrines usually appear on campus anywhere from early April to the end of
April, and stay until early-mid September, when they fly south, some as far as
Central and South America. Their preferred nesting site on campus is on Craigie
Hall, where they have a 'scrape', an indented 'nest' of sorts which has gravel
and some surrounding planks to give some protection to the eggs. Their preferred
ledges are on tall buildings, such as Social Sciences, the Education building,
and chiefly the Library Tower, which looks directly onto the nest ledge.
Status in Canada:
The anatum subspecies is the race of Peregrine Falcon breeding in
Alberta. According to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife
in Canada (COSEWIC), the anatum subspecies is was considered
to be endangered in Canada as recently as 1995, and is currently on a
kind of 'watch' list, which means that any major decline can result in their
status reverting back to 'endangered'. An endangered species is
species of fauna or flora that is threatened with imminent extirpation
or extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its Canadian range. The
elimination of DDT in most countries on their migration route has helped in
reducing peregrine mortality, yet this remains a concern, as is the fact that
their prey is still being poisoned, and some birds of prey (incl. the bald
eagle) are being shot by hunters and land/livestock owners. It is
illegal to shoot peregrine falcons in the United States or Canada.
Birds - gulls, pigeons, doves, waterfowl, shorebirds and sometimes songbirds.
Tundra (High Arctic), savannah, seacoasts, mountains, cities with high buildings.
Nest (scrape) sites:
Ledges on cliffs, ledges on high buildings in cities (including downtown Calgary
and The University of Calgary).