Species: Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)
Family: Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)
Star sign: Virgo
Ideal Date: Sky Diving
The Peregrine Falcon is a bird of great speed. You may be under the impression that the cheetah is the fastest animal on earth, but that is INCORRECT, and is sadly a widespread and widely unquestioned piece of anti-bird propaganda; in truth, the fastest creature on Earth is the swift subject of today’s column! When casually flying around, a Peregrine Falcon can reach up to 35 miles per hour, and up to 69 (nice) miles per hour while pursuing prey. But that’s not even close to the fastest they get. This excellent friend hunts by diving, dropping from more than half a mile in the air towards their prey and reaching 200 miles per hour in the process— in fact, the top recorded speed of a Peregrine Falcon is 242 miles an hour! WOW! That is so fast and powerful! Compared to the Peregrine, the cheetah’s paltry top speed of 75 mph seems like a snail’s pace!
Peregrine Falcons (which, as an aside, it’s essential you know are sometimes called “Duck Hawks”) are also one of the most widespread birds on earth. They can be found doing their zippy thing on every continent except Antarctica. But just because a bird is widespread doesn’t mean it has a high population; in the early and mid-1900s, over much of its range and especially in the US, this rapid raptor was endangered due to the overuse of DDT in pesticides (as were other birds of prey such as the Bald Eagle, whom this column has previously covered). Thankfully, after the chemical was banned, Falcon populations bounced back! While not as pervasive as the Red-Tailed Hawk or as flashy as the Bald Eagle, in the modern day the Peregrine Falcon is a common sight all across the globe.
Peregrine Falcons like hunting in wide open spaces and prefer to nest in tall cliffs overlooking water. But nowadays they occasionally reside in cities, perching on skyscrapers and other tall structures. Considering that Reed doesn’t have any particularly tall buildings, the two Peregrine Falcons who visited campus last week were likely just passing through the area. That said, just in case you get a glimpse of these fast friends, you can identify them by their crow-sized bodies and long wings; their backs are blue-grey, and they have white breasts with barring at the bottom and white patches around their necks. They also have a brilliant yellow beak, talons, and eyes, as well as yellow rings around the eyes. If you are desperate to see one, keep out a sharp eye and you just may be rewarded! And if you are a true falcon fanatic, you can always turn to falconry to get your fix; Peregrines have been a falconer’s best friend for over 3000 years, so who’s to say that one can’t be yours?