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Peregrine Falcon

Falco peregrinus

Peregrine Falcon, adult

Peregrine Falcon
credit: Carl Mueller/CCSA

The name for the Peregrine Falcon originates from the Latin term peregrinus, meaning "to wander." This alludes to the tendency for this species to engage in spectacular long-distance migrations.

In North America, the migratory characteristics of Peregrine Falcons are difficult to describe for a variety of reasons. The species was brought to the brink of extinction by pesticide poisoning and currently occupies only a small part of its presumed historic range. The species is represented in North America by three sub-species, or races, each of which pursues a different migratory strategy. During the last twenty years, in an effort to help reintroduce peregrines to areas where they'd been eliminated, captive birds from many different sources were bred and their young were released into the wild. These individuals possess genetic material from parents that may have had different migratory characteristics, and because migration is a genetically controlled trait (as opposed to a learned behavior), the resulting offspring now exhibit a mixture of migratory behaviors.

The most migratory of the North American peregrines are the birds from the high Arctic, known as Tundra Peregrines. This race migrates along both coasts following flocks of shorebirds and other waterfowl. Some of these birds spend the winter in Florida and along the Gulf Coast, but many of them continue on to wintering areas in South America. The best places to see migrating Peregrine Falcons are Kiptopeke State Park in Virginia and throughout coastal Florida.

Read more about the Peregrine Falcon.