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Peregrine

Falco peregrinus

Fabhcún gorm

Status: Widespread resident in Ireland.

Conservation Concern: Green-listed in Ireland. No longer a species of European conservation concern after severe historic declines, due to chemicals affecting reproductive success.

Identification: A bird of prey (raptor) with a short hooked bill. A species of falcon with a heavy powerfully built body, medium length tail and wings which are broad close to the body and pointed at the tip. Sexual size difference, the female is larger than the male. Male and female plumages are the same, unlike Merlins, the species most likely to be confused with Peregrine. Adults are bluey grey above, with a barred tail; the underparts are white and finely barred, the check, throat and upper breast are plain white and contrast with a black hood and thick moustachal stripe. Juvenile birds are similar to adults but have brownish upperparts and streaked, not barred, feathers on the body.

Similar Species: Kestrel, Merlin.

Call: Mainly silent away from its breeding site. Main call is a hard persistent cackling.

Diet: Mainly birds, usually taken in the air and sometimes on the ground or on water. Employs spectacular hunting technique where the bird 'stoops' from high above its intended prey, with its wings held close into the body, reaching great speeds. Estimates of speeds vary but it seems likely that birds reach at least 240km/hour, making it the fastest animal on the planet. Kills its prey with force of its impact using its legs at the last moment to inflict the killer blow. Prey includes pigeons, including feral birds, thrushes, waders and wildfowl, gulls and seabirds.

Breeding: Breeds on coastal and inland cliffs. Most birds on the coast breed on the south, west and north coasts, coastal breeding on the east coast is limited by the availability of suitable nesting cliffs. Most inland birds breed on mountain cliffs but will also breed at lower levels. The species is still recovering from a dramatic and well documented decline in the 1950s and 60s due to the effects of pesticide poisoning. The responsible pesticides have been banned and the species has been recovering slowly.

Wintering: Resident in Ireland, but shows some movement away from its breeding areas in the winter. Can be found on the coast, especially on estuaries where they hunt on concentrations on water birds. Some birds move into cites, where feral pigeons provide suitable prey; one was captured on film recently by a road traffic monitor looking down over the Quays in central Dublin. Some birds at this time of the year could have immigrated from Britain or even further afield.

Where to See: Look for them on estuaries in the winter. If a flock of waders or wildfowl suddenly fly up, it maybe that a Peregrine has flushed them. If they are about they will often be perched on fences or other vantage points. Walking suitable cliffs in the breeding season may give dramatic views of Peregrines hunting.

Monitored by: Countryside Bird Survey 

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