Peregrine falcon

Essay by MelonheadHigh School, 10th gradeA+, May 2005

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TAXONOMY

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Falconiformes

Family: Falconidae

Genus: Falco

Species: Falco peregrinus

Authority: Tunstall

Comments on taxonomy:

Other common names are duck hawk and great-footed hawk *05,25,34*; only subspecies in eastern U.S. is F. peregrinus anatum Bonaparte *01, 15,26,29*.

OCCURENCE IN ILLINOIS

Last known breeding pair in Jackson Co.(1951) *06,31*; Extinct as breeding species in eastern U.S. since 1964*16*; often sighted in fall migration near Mississippi R. And Lk. Michigan*22,23,24*. Two potential unassassed eyries in Jackson and Wabash Counties *34*. Known to stop over and perhaps winter in Shawnee National Forest *34*.

STATUS

Items in bold indicate applicable categories

Forest Service Categories: S = recommended for regional sensitive status, F = forest listed species, M = management indicator species

Federal Status: Endangered Threatened Proposed for listing

Candidate for proposal Recovery plan approved Recovery plan received (USFWS)

Recovery plan in preparation Under notice of review Delisted

Migratory EPA indicator Forest Serv.-

Shawnee species

State Status: Endangered Threatened Proposed

Other: Game Furbearer Nongame protected

Sportfish Commercial Pest None of the above

Comments on status:

Early April- mid May: early Sept.- Nov. Occasional migrant along Lake Michigan and rare migrant in remainder of state *06*. Original eastern breeding population now extinct *34*. No evidence of breeding pairs in the eastern U.S. after 1975 *16*. Recovery plan published in 1979. The peregrine falcon is protected under Illinois Endangered Species Act, 1972 *35*, Federal Endangered Species Act, 1977*34*, Illinois Wildlife Code 1971 *37*, and Migratory Bird Treaty Act, 1918 *36*, for other legal protection see *34*.

HABITAT ASSOCIATIONS

Items in bold indicate applicable categories

General habitat: Unknown Terrestrial Aquatic Riparian

USFS timber inventory forest size class: Unknown Unstocked Seedling Sapling

Seedling/sapling Pole Mature Over mature

Land use and land cover: Unknown Urban Residential

Commercial

Industrial

Transportation, communication

Complex industrial/commercial

Mixed

Other

Agricultural Crop, pasture

Orchards, groves, nurseries

Feedlot

Other Rangeland Herbaceous

Shrub and brush

Mixed

Forestland Deciduous

Evergreen

Mixed Water Stream

Lake

Reservoir

Bay

Wetland Forest

Non-forest Barren Salt flat

Beach

Sand

Rock

Mine

Transit

Mix

Forest cover types: Cover type Structural stage Canopy closure Season

Elm-ash-cottonwood Mature

(9" dia. & 100 yrs. old) Unknown Spring

Elm-ash-cottonwood Mature

(9" dia. & 100 yrs. old) Unknown Fall

Elm-ash-cottonwood Old growth

(trees over 100 yrs. old) Unknown Spring

Elm-ash-cottonwood Old growth

(trees over 100 yrs. old) Unknown Fall

Associated tree species: No records.

National wetland inventory classifications: System Subsystem Class Subclass Water regime modifiers Water chemistry

Lacustrine Littoral Forest Broad-leaved deciduous Permanent nontidal Freshwater

Palustrine Emergent vegetation Persistent Permanent nontidal Freshwater

Palustrine Forest Broad-leaved deciduous Permanent nontidal Freshwater

Riverine Unknown perennial Forest Broad-leaved deciduous Permanent nontidal Freshwater

Comments on species-habitat associations:

Historical nesting sites were in the bluffs of the Mississippi R. *6,16*; migrants most commonly seen along the Mississippi R. and Lk. Michigan *06*. The peregrine nests mostly on rock cliffs, bluffs and vertical escarpments. Also river gorges and watergaps with precipitous cliffs are preferred. Tree sites and city buildings may also be used *34*. The peregrine hunts over waterways, wetland areas such as swamps or marshes and open fields *34*.

Important plant and animal association: No comments.

High value habitats Habitat Structural stage Season

Floodplain forest Mature

(9" dia. & 100 yrs. old) Spring

Floodplain forest Mature

(9" dia. & 100 yrs. old) Fall

Wetland Special habitat Spring

Wetland Special habitat Fall

Lake Michigan Not applicable

(HVAL-HAB cover) Spring

Lake Michigan Not applicable

(HVAL-HAB cover) Fall

Large river Not applicable

(HVAL-HAB cover) Spring

Large river Not applicable

(HVAL-HAB cover) Fall

Cliff Not applicable

(HVAL-HAB cover) Spring

Cliff Not applicable

(HVAL-HAB cover) Fall

Marsh restoration Special habitat Spring

Marsh restoration Special habitat Fall

Species-habitat interrelations: Peregrines may be found near rocky crags, ledges, bluffs, forested regions, open country, grasslands or scrub land *09,34*. Gigantic trees were used as nesting sites in 1800's, no such trees exist today *29*; recently, cliffs were most important nesting sites *02,03,19*; essential is a commanding view of surrounding area, migratory peregrines are most abundant along Lk. Michigan shores *06*. Habitat types used by migrating peregrines are essentially waterways, wetland areas such as swamps and marshes, open fields and woodland types found along edges of these areas. The best areas have combinations of these habitat types *34*. Peregrines require large expanses of land over which they can capture bird prey in flight *34*.

GUILDS

Feed-guilding: Habitat Structural stage Season Feed-guilds

Agricultural field Not applicable

(HVAL-HAB cover) All Air- birds

Terrestrial surface- birds

Water surface- birds

Successional field Special habitat All Air- birds

Terrestrial surface- birds

Water surface- birds

Lakes and ponds Not applicable

(HVAL-HAB cover) All Air- birds

Terrestrial surface- birds

Water surface- birds

Wetland Special habitat All Air- birds

Terrestrial surface- birds

Water surface- birds

Large river Not applicable

(HVAL-HAB cover) All Air- birds

Terrestrial surface- birds

Water surface- birds

Comments on feed-guilding:

Peregrines feed almost exclusively on birds, taken on the wing *05,21*. Open space above hunting area important to allow aerial capture. Hunting takes place over waterways, wetlands and open fields *34*.

Breed-guilding: Habitat Structural stage Season Breed-Guilds

Cliff Not applicable

Spring Terrestrial surface, cliff on ledge near top

Comments on breed-guilding:

Cliff ledges are the foci of many courtship and breeding behaviors, and preferred nesting sites *10*. Also may nest in trees and large buildings in metropolitan areas *34*.

FOOD-HABITS

Trophic level is CARNIVORE

Food item Life stage/plant part

Birds Adult

Ardeidae (herons, bitterns) All

Anatidae (swans, geese, ducks) All

Accipitridae (kites, hawks, eagles) Unknown

Falconidae (kestrels, falcons) Unknown

Charadriidae (plovers) Unknown

Scolopacidae (curlews, sandpipers, snipes) All

Laridae (gulls, terns) All

Columbidae (pigeons, doves) All

Columbidae (pigeons, doves) Adult

Passeriformes All

Hirundinidae (martins, swallows) All

Corvidae (jays, magpies, crows) All

Mimidae (mockingbirds, thrashers) All

Muscicapidae (old world warblers & flycatchers, gnatcatchers) All

Sturnidae (starlings) All

Emberizinae (sparrows, longspurs) All

Cardinalinae (cardinals, buntings) All

Icterinae (blackbirds, orioles, meadowlarks) All

Important:

Birds Adult

Anatidae (swans, geese, ducks) All

Charadriidae (plovers) Unknown

Scolopacidae (curlews, sandpipers, snipes) All

Columbidae (pigeons, doves) All

Columbidae (pigeons, doves) Adult

Juvenile:

Birds Adult

Anatidae (swans, geese, ducks) All

Charadriidae (plovers) Unknown

Scolopacidae (curlews, sandpipers, snipes) All

Columbidae (pigeons, doves) All

Adult:

Birds Adult

Ardeidae (herons, bitterns) All

Anatidae (swans, geese, ducks) All

Accipitridae (kites, hawks, eagles) Unknown

Falconidae (kestrels, falcons) Unknown

Charadriidae (plovers) Unknown

Scolopacidae (curlews, sandpipers, snipes) All

Laridae (gulls, terns) All

Columbidae (pigeons, doves) All

Columbidae (pigeons, doves) Adult

Passeriformes All

Hirundinidae (martins, swallows) All

Corvidae (jays, magpies, crows) All

Mimidae (mockingbirds, thrashers) All

Muscicapidae (old world warblers & flycatchers, gnatcatchers) All

Sturnidae (starlings) All

Emberizinae (sparrows, longspurs) All

Cardinalinae (cardinals, buntings) All

Icterinae (blackbirds, orioles, meadowlarks) All

Comments on food habits:

General: Birds constitute nearly all of the peregrines diet; where avail- able, pigeons are preferred prey*21,25,28* waterfowl and shorebirds are especially important on wintering grounds *34*. Near metropolitan areas starlings and rock doves are important prey *34*.

Juvenile: Parents tear prey birds into pieces for hatchlings*28*. Food items are those eaten by adults.

Adult: See general food habits.

ENVIRONMENTAL ASSOCIATIONS

General:

Flood plain: see comments

Cliffs/ledges: see comments

Aquatic habitats: freshwater marsh

Aquatic habitats: swamp, general

Aquatic habitats: mud flats

Aquatic habitats: sloughs, bayous

Aquatic habitats: swamp

Aquatic habitats: marsh

Ecotones: woodland/water

Pastures: see comments

Grassland: see comments

Meadows: see comments

Old fields: see comments

Hardwood forest: see comments

Human associations: see comments

Unknown

Limiting:

Flood plain: see comments

Cliffs/ledges: see comments

Aquatic habitats: freshwater marsh

Aquatic habitats: swamp, general

Aquatic habitats: marsh

Human associations: see comments

Egg

Unknown

Feeding juvenile:

Aquatic habitats: freshwater marsh

Aquatic habitats: swamp, general

Aquatic habitats: mud flats

Aquatic habitats: sloughs, bayous

Aquatic habitats: swamp

Aquatic habitats: marsh

Pastures: see comments

Grassland: see comments

Meadows: see comments

Old fields: see comments

Resting juvenile:

Flood plain: see comments

Cliffs/ledges: see comments

Ecotones: woodland/water

Feeding adult:

Aquatic habitats: freshwater marsh

Aquatic habitats: swamp, general

Aquatic habitats: mud flats

Aquatic habitats: sloughs, bayous

Aquatic habitats: swamp

Aquatic habitats: marsh

Pastures: see comments

Grassland: see comments

Meadows: see comments

Old fields: see comments

Resting adult:

Flood plain: see comments

Ecotones: woodland/water

Breeding adult:

Flood plain: see comments

Cliffs/ledges: see comments

Ecotones: woodland/water

Comments on environmental associations:

General: Historically, peregrines bred along large (Mississippi R.) rivers and lakes (Lk. Michigan)*02,03,06*; peregrines most often nest in cliffs*19,21*; human encroachment is generally deleterious, however, peregrines have nested on occuppied buildings*15,18*.

Feeding juvenile: Nestlings are fed in nest. Accompany parents on hunting trip or to plucking post when fledged *09*.

Resting juvenile: Juveniles remain on nest ledge for 5-6 weeks *14*. Assume to adopt adult resting habits.

Feeding adult: Hunting occurs over waterways, wetlands, and open fields *34*. Pere- grines require large expanses of open space in which to capture prey in flight. Often soar after feeding *34*.

Resting adult: Adults roost on rocks or trees with a preference for rocks or even small trees growing out of rocks especially if there are dead branches to use as perches *34*.

Breeding adult: Breeding behavior is centered around nesting ledges *05,10,14,28*. Are also known to breed in trees or buildings in metropolitan areas *09,34*.

LIFE HISTORY

Origin: Native *34,35*.

Physical description: 5 inches in length, 40 inches wingspan *09,27*; 639 gm male, 1007 gm female/average weight *09*; blue-gray or slate back, light breast *09,27*.

Reproduction: The male arrives first at breeding site (February) and goes through a series of acrobatic displays to attract a mate *34*. Courtship in peregrines includes these displays and nest site selection *05,14*. In the eastern U.S., pairs were on their breeding grounds and had re-established territories by march *34*. Peregrines will return to the same area year after year *09,34*. Peregrines also mate for life but a mate will be replaced if dies *09*. Courtship feeding occurs in peregrines and the male presents food to the female with a bowing ceremony *09*. It is unclear which sex chooses nest site. Nest usually located on rock ledge, bluffs of vertical escarp- ment. No nest is construced *09*. Peregrines may appropriate old nests of buzzards, ravens or eagles *09*. Mating takes place on ledges or cliff tops, sometimes on tree branches *09*. 3-4 Eggs (2-5) are laid in late March or April *05,14,19,21*. A second clutch will often be laid if first is destroyed. *05,14,19,28*. Eggs are cream or buff with many red and red-brown markings *09*. Eggs are laid at 2-3 day inter- vals *09*. Incubation begins with second or third egg as a rule; done mostly by female though male if known to assist. Male brings food to female while incubating *09*. Incubation lasts approx. 28-29 days for each egg (approx. 33 days) *09,34*. Hatchlings are altricial. Male supplies food and female feeds young, though male will feed if female absent *09*. Young fly at 35-42 days after hatching. After fledging juveniles remain in vicinity and dependent on parents for approx. 2 months *09*. Hatching success in wild is approx. at 75 % with an average of 1 young fledging per laying pair *34*. Brown and Amadon (19662) report 2 or less young per year per breeding pair *09*. All pairs may not breed in particular years *09*. Sexual maturity is attained at 3 years of age *14,28,34*.

Behavior: Peregrines are territorial species that return to the same vicinity in successive years. Exact estimates of territory size is known to vary depending on availability of suitable nesting sites and prey availability *34*. Total ranges may vary from 1/4 - 240 mi.; ave. in Britain is 20.1 square miles *34*. The territory immediately surrounding a nest site is constantly and vigorously defended. The female is more aggressive than male *09*. Peregrines are excellent flyers and have been recorded at speeds of approx. 275 mph. (Stoop). Peregrines hunt food in the air and rarely on the ground. This species does not necessarily depend on speed to catch prey but manueverability and surprise also aid these falcons in hunting *34*. Open space above and around hunting areas is important for the peregrines hunting style *34*. The original eastern population of peregrines were either weakly migratory or non-migratory *34*. The stock from which the introduced peregrines were derived is migratory. It is not yet known whether introduced birds will migrate. See *34*.

Limiting factors: Chemical pesticides, chlorinated hydrocarbons and specifically DDT and DDE are responsible for eggshell thinning and resulted in the demise of the eastern peregrine population beginning in 1946 *34*. The pesticide problem is not local but perhaps global. Even though DDT has been banned in the U.S., its use in Mexico, Central and South American countries presents a serious hazard to peregrines throughout the western hemisphere *34*. Indiscriminate shooting was reported to be the greatest factor contributing to adult mortality *34*. Egg collecting, natural predators, desease, falconers, and human disturbance at the nest site and during the nesting period are also contributing factors to annual loss of eggs and young *34*. There is no evidence that natural predation is a limiting factor. Enemies include the great horned owl (most adverse), racoon, gray fox, bobcat, striped skunk, oppossum, and black snake *34*.

Population parameters: The original eastern breeding population is now extinct. As of 1975 no breeding pairs occurred in the eastern U.S.*16* The recovery plan for peregrine falcons approved in 1979 assumes a first year mortality rate of 66.7% and 20% mortality thereafter. Also that 50% of breeding age birds nest successfully and 2.0 young per successful pair are produced with a sex ratio of 1:1 *34*. Because of dealing with an extirpated population and lack captive stock, the pro- posed introductions will be derived from parental stock described in *34*. p.30. The recovery plan estimates that over a 15 yr. period from 1980-1995, 2550 young captive-produced peregrines might have to be re- leased in order to establish 92 successful breeding pairs in the wild. Peregrines may live 12 yrs. in the wild, perhaps more in captivity. Average lifespan is approx. 2-3 yrs. *09*.

MANAGEMENT PRACTICES

Beneficial:

Maintaining undisturbed/undeveloped areas

Maintaining natural areas and nature preserves

Maintaining unique or special habitat features (wetlands, snags, caves, cliffs, talises, etc.

Preserving endangered species habitat

Preserving sensitive species habitat

Performing special survey prior to prescription

Performing field survey prior to prescription

Controlling land use and human activities

Seasonal restriction of human use of habitats

Controlling pollution

Developing/maintaining snags

Developing/maintaining wetlands

Creating/maintaining wetlands from non-wetlands

Developing/maintaining mudflats

Protecting existing wetlands

Restoration of wetlands (return flooded or drained areas to previous wetland conditions)

Developing/maintaining riparian habitat

Forest protection

Deferring for old growth in forest areas

Maintaining forests

Providing protection from predators

Providing food and cover for associated species

Restricting human disturbance during migration, breeding, and nesting

Estimating/maintaining nesting and escape cover

Maintaining large trees for denning, nesting, or roosting

Providing artificial nesting and roosting sites (platforms, nest boxes, cones, baskets, burro

Maintaining undisturbed resting areas for migrating birds

Providing ledges on highwalls of surface mines

Stocking captive-reared wild strain animals

Adverse:

Providing wildlife user trails

Locating, designing, developing, and constructing roads

Locating, designing, and constructing powerlines

Recreational development

Draining wetlands

Applying pesticide on agricultural land

Strip mining

Applying pesticides

Cutting and deforestation

Removal of old trees

Application of pesticides

Application of insecticides

Comments on management practices:

Extirpation in Illinois was primarily due to pesticide (especially DDT) accumulations, causing catastrophic decline in hatching success *11,12*; the principal goals of the peregrine falcon recovery plan are; 1) preservation and management of essential nesting, wintering, and migration habitat, 2) captive propagation of peregrine and release of these birds into the wild, 3) protection of peregrines through law enforcement, elimination of environmental pollutants that adversely affect peregrines and 4) promotion of public support and understanding through a good education-information program *34*. Recovery can only proceed if there are adequate laws and strict enforcement protecting the birds from being killed or disturbed throughout their life cycle. The following are suggested: provide for additional habitat for prey base and open space to hunt prey, provide protection from predators, limit human disturbance, provide perch pole at or in vicinity of nest site, provide adequate feeding ledges and control access to site. The global pesticide problem must also be addressed. For more details on the recovery plan and management see *34*. The priority area for the recovery plan is the N.E. U.S.. No release sites have been proposed for Illinois, but are proposed for Wisconsin and Minnesota *34*. The U.S. Forest service, however, hopes to establish 2 breeding pairs in the Shawnee National Forest by the year 2020. (Proposed land and resource management plan, USFS, Shawnee National Forest, 1985).



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