The Peregrine Falcon is an Endangered Species in Ontario.
Why? What is being done about it?
Peregrine Falcons, although never common, were once widely distributed in Ontario. Their population declined drastically between the 1940s and the 1960s and they disappeared completely from Ontario in 1963. This was due to reproductive failure caused by exposure to the pesticide DDT. Concerns that the species could become extinct led to a breeding program in which 600 captive-raised young were released in Ontario from 1977 to 1996. Peregrine Falcons have adapted to life in cities, where food is plentiful and tall buildings provide high perches and nest sites. Volunteer Falcon Watches are established in many cities to keep an eye on chicks as they learn to fly above busy streets. Peregrine Falcons are also returning to formerly occupied wilderness areas in Ontario.
How to recognize a Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus anatum)
- Slate blue-gray on top with long tapered wings and long tapered tail. Distinctive black sideburns on face. Medium sized: 38 - 50 cm long
- White throat; legs, feet and the base of the beak are yellow; the rest of the bill is black; moderate amounts of black barring on white breast, flanks, underside of flight feathers and tail; rose to salmon blush colour on breast; the female is always larger than male.
- Overall, a dark brown bird. In close view, juveniles appear honey-gold on the breast and stomach. Fledged juveniles are the same size and shape as adults, but the young birds are dark brown on top and heavily streaked on the belly. Legs, feet and base of the beak are a bluish colour.
What do Peregrine Falcons eat?
- Peregrine Falcons eat pigeons, medium to large songbirds, shorebirds, ducks, and occasionally bats and other small mammals. They normally catch their food in the air or knock it to the ground, often by dropping quickly from great heights. A Peregrine Falcon hunting dive or "stoop" can reach speeds of 330 km per hour.
Where do Peregrine Falcons nest? What do the chicks look like?
- In wilderness areas Peregrine Falcons typically nest on cliff ledges. They will also nest on tall manmade structures such as office towers, industrial smokestacks, and under high bridges.
- Adults normally begin nesting at two or three years of age. They court, mate and usually lay 2 to 4 mottled, brown eggs in late March or early April.
- Peregrine Falcons incubate their eggs for 30 to 35 days. The female usually incubates the eggs while the male hunts for food.
- Newly hatched chicks are covered with creamy white down. They have disproportionately large feet, giving them an awkward appearance. Young falcons grow flight feathers in 3 to 5 weeks and take their first flight at about 40 days of age.
- By 9 to12 weeks of age the juvenile birds begin to hunt on their own.