Bird Database

Peregrine Falcon

(Falco peregrinus)

State of the Birds
At a Glance







Human disturbance, Pesticides, Contaminants

Conservation Actions

Do not disturb nesting sites, minimize inputs of toxic chemicals into the environment

Peregrine Falcon

(Falco peregrinus)

Peregrine Falcons have been recorded attaining speeds of over 200 miles per hour in a dive, making them the uncontested “fastest bird in the world.” Also known as “stoops,” these dives are one of this falcon’s common means of hunting, in which the bird hurtles toward prey from above and pulls out at the bottom to bring its feet forward to attack. Sometimes the force of this blow is enough to kill the target, but a Peregrine’s main means of dispatching its prey is to bite it through the neck. In addition to stooping, Peregrine’s also hunt in level flight and by pursuing prey up into the air. They eat primarily mid-sized birds such as pigeons and jays, but in a stoop can kill birds as large as geese by hitting them in the neck.

Historically, Peregrine Falcons were widespread in eastern North America, where they nested almost exclusively on remote cliffs in mountainous areas. New Hampshire is estimated to have supported 15-25 such eyries through the 1950s, although the species was in decline by then. The decline was driven mainly by the pesticide DDT, which accumulated up the food chain and led to eggshell thinning in top predators. With a subsequent drop in reproductive output, by the 1960s there were no Peregrines nesting in the eastern United States. DDT was banned in 1972, and over the next 15 years conservation biologists undertook the painstaking process of reintroducing Peregrines to areas where they’d been extirpated. In 1981 these efforts bore fruit, and a pair nested in Franconia Notch. The population continued to grow at a steady rate, and now there are roughly 25 occupied territories each year.

Increasingly, those territories are in urban areas, including buildings, bridges, and quarries. The first Peregrine nesting on a man-made structure in New Hampshire was a pair at Manchester in 2001; this is the very same site that now hosts the popular “Peregrine cam.” Because these birds nest in a box that can be accessed from within the building, biologists have been able to band dozens of Peregrine chicks over the years. Sightings of these birds have provided valuable information on the falcon’s movements. Some have returned in later generations to nest in Manchester, while others have set up territories in cities in Massachusetts.

Seasonal Abundance

Relative abundance based on eBird data. Numbers indicate likelihood of finding this species in suitable habitat at a given time of year, not actual numbers encountered.

Peregrine Falcon
Range Map

Information for the species profiles on this website was compiled from a combination of the sources listed below.

  • The Birds of New Hampshire. By Allan R. Keith and Robert B. Fox. 2013. Memoirs of the Nuttall Ornithological club No. 19.

  • Atlas of the Breeding Birds of New Hampshire. Carol R. Foss, ed. 1994. Arcadia Publishing Company and Audubon Society of New Hampshire

  • Birds of the World. Various authors and dates. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

  • Data from the Breeding Bird Survey

  • Data from the Christmas Bird Count