Bird Sightings : Hebrides : Peregrine Falcon
Photography © Andy L
Isle of Harris - Outer Hebrides (Western Isles)
October 16th, 2008
(Peregrine, Duck Hawk, Wandering Falcon)
Gaelic: Seabhag Ghorm
- Peregrine Falcon
- Falco peregrinus
- Gaelic: Seabhag Ghorm
- UK: AMBER LIST 1400 pairs (summer) BTO
- UK: Resident Breeder, Passage/Winter Visitor
- WI: Uncommon resident breeder (about 10 breeding pairs). Mainly in Uists and Barra
- Breeding Sexually mature at 1yr. Mates for life. Nest is scrape under overhang on cliff ledge or sometimes on tall man-made structure. Lays 3-4 eggs. Buff with red markings. Breeding range of it's 19 species covers most of the world.
- Wintering: Mostly resident but Arctic birds migrate south. Some birds, usually males & juveniles, move down from the more upland breeding sites in autumn.
- Habitat: Rocky seacliffs, tundra, moor, steppe, marshes, seacoast, cities
- Diet: Mostly medium-sized birds: doves, waterfowl, songbirds. Sometimes rats, voles, mice, squirrels, reptiles, insects. In urban areas, mostly feral pigeons & starlings. Mostly hunts at dawn & dusk. Hunts over open areas inc water. Spots prey from high perch or from air. Once spotted, folds back tail & wings, tucks in feet, & goes into dive reaching 200mph! Prey caught & killed mid-air. On ground it is plucked then eaten.
- Crow-sized falcon. Length 34–50cm, 13–20 in. Wingspan 80–120cm 31–47 in. Dark blue-grey above. Black barring on white below. Very dark top to head. Black cheeks. White face. Short tail. Long, narrowish, pointed wings. Flight feathers white with grey barring. Yellow feet & cere (at top of beak). Beak & claws black. Immature bird browner with streaking below (rather than barring), & pale-bluish cere (at top of beak). Swift & agile flyer. Female up to 30% bigger than male.
- Max recorded age 17yrs 4mths. Typical lifespan 5yrs
- Listen to a Peregrine Falcon (RSPB site)
- Similar birds: Hobby
With a stoop of reaching speeds of up to 322 km/h (200 mph), the Pergrine Falcon is the fastest animal in the world.
Peregrine Falcon records in the Western Isles
Uncommon resident breeder (10-99 breeding pairs)
Mainly in Uists and Barra
Source: Outer Hebrides Bird Report (2001)
Estimated 9 breeding pairs of Peregrine Falcons in the islands (TBC)
On the chart below the darker the shade of blue the more abundant the Peregrine Falcon is during a month or the more likely you are to see it.
(Source: Outer Hebrides Birds Checklist)
Threats to the Peregrine Falcon Population
In the second World War 200,000 homing pigeons were used by the armed forces as message carriers, and in 1940 the government issued an order to cull Peregrine Falcons - 600 birds were killed.
During the 1960's Peregrine Falcons, like Sparrowhawks experienced breeding problems. Pesticides like DDT had built up in the food-chain and being at the top of the chain the prey birds were taking in concentrated amounts which led to thinning of the shells of their eggs. Chemical use of pesticides became restricted by law and then the numbers of Peregrine Falcons increased. Recent protection of nesting places and releases to the wild has also added to the success of the species.
Egg thieves are however still a major problem. There is a BBC article written in 2008 about an egg-collector caught with more than 7,000 eggs in his collection, 653 of those eggs were from the UK's most protected species such as the Red-necked Phalarope. He also had eggs from Barn Owls, Peregrine Falcons, Ospreys, Choughs, Peregrine Falcons, and almost 40 Black-necked Grebe's eggs. (RSPB estimates there are only 40 - 60 breeding pairs of Black-necked Grebes in the whole of the UK....)
- Keep your eyes open for trouble.
- Quickly phone the police or RSPB if you are at all worried about the safety of Peregrine Falcons.
- Don't tell people if you know where there are Peregrine Falcon nests
- If you know where Peregrine Falcons are breeding do not take photographs of them on the nest. Disturb breeding Falcons and you are going to be arrested ...
- Don't mention where you have seen Peregrine Falcons during breeding time - (locations where the birds of prey have been sighted at breeding time are kept vague on our bird sightings page).
A lot of people think that egg-collecting does not happen anymore, it is an archaic thing to do in these enlightened times - but sadly the rarer a species becomes the greater a target it is ...
Other local bird photographs
Sources of information for the bird sightings section