College of Veterinary Medicine |

Healthy Animals, Healthy People, Healthy Planet


Piper is a female Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus).  She was originally bred in captivity for falconry purposes, but she is congenitally blind in her right eye, making her unsuitable for falconry.  She joined the WSU Raptor Club in 2004.
Peregrines are best known for being one of the fastest animals on the planet.  When diving after prey, they can reach speeds of over 200 miles per hour! These birds are approximately raven-sized and can be most easily recognized by the black "helmet"covering the face and head. Their wings are grey to black and their chest is a buff color covered with small bars and spots. The undersides of their wings are gray with these bars and spots as well. 
Peregrines prey mainly on other birds including blackbirds, blue jays, doves, waterfowl, shorebirds and many other songbirds.  Their prey is usually captured while in flight. The Peregrine Falcon will generally strike from above with their large feet by either stunning the bird and causing it to fall to the ground, or killing it instantly by the tremendous blow. 
Peregrine Falcons have a very extensive range. In fact, their name comes from the Latin word peregrinus which means "wanderer"or "traveler".  They can be found in North and South America, Eurasia, Africa and Australia.  These falcons have adapted to live in open areas such as the tundra, savannah, and sea coast, to high mountains, and even tall buildings.  There are three subspecies of Peregrine Falcons in North America.  Each differ slightly in appearance, live in different regions and migrate different distances.  The Peale's Peregrine can be found along the coasts of Alaska, British Columbia and Washington.  Tundra Peregrines breed in the Canadian and Alaskan arctic and migrate as far south as Argentina.  The last subspecies, the Anatum Peregrine is endemic to North America and spends its winter in the southern US and into the Caribbean. 
Peregrine Falcons have had a difficult time over the past century.  They were listed as an endangered species in 1970 after the effects of the pesticide DDT caused a dramatic world wide decline in their populations.  Falcons affected by DDT could not lay eggs with strong enough shells to withstand the weight of the parent during incubation.  Since the banning of DDT and the introduction of captive breeding programs, Peregrine numbers have begun to climb and they were taken off of the National Endangered Species list in 1999, although they remain endangered in some parts of the United States.  After virtually complete extinction in the 70's from the Western US,  Peregrines have made a spectacular recovery due to captive breeding programs and are now again well established west of the Mississippi.

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