The peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus), also known as the peregrine, and historically as the duck hawk in North America, is a cosmopolitan bird of prey (raptor).
Not only is this magnificent raptor the fastest bird in the world, but also the fastest animal on the planet. They reach their highest speeds during their iconic hunting dives, whereby they soar to great heights, then swoop down at high speeds in pursuit of their prey. The fastest speed recorded of a peregrine falcon was 242 miles per hour.
Travelling at such high velocity could damage the lungs of a bird, but these agile raptors are built for speed. Tiny tubercles direct pressurized air away from their nostrils, enabling them to breathe easily while diving. Nictating membranes serve as goggles, lubricating the eyes and protecting them from debris as they plunge through the air.
Peregrine Falcons live and breed on every continent in the world except Antarctica. They are strong, efficient flyers and skilled at catching a variety of prey from small songbirds to large ducks. This versatility allows them to live in almost any type of climate and habitat and have adapted well to life in large cities, where they feed on birds like pigeons and starlings, and nest on the ledges of tall buildings.
Like many raptors, females are larger than the males. Both birds reach sexual maturity at one year and mate for life. Pairs return to the same site to nest each year. They nest in a scrape, normally on cliff edges or, in recent times, on tall human-made structures.
Peregrines lay up to five dark brown, speckled eggs These are incubated for 29 to 33 days, mainly by the female. After hatching, the chicks are covered with creamy-white down and have disproportionately large feet. At this point both male and female leave the nest to hunt to feed their young. They have to work hard since peregrine chicks grow very rapidly. In six days they double their weight and at three weeks old they are 10 times their size at birth. Chicks fledge 42 to 46 days after hatching, and remain dependent on their parents for up to two months.
The Peregrine Falcon was removed from the Endangered Species list in 1999.