peregrine falcon

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falcon

falcon, common name for members of the Falconidae, a heterogeneous family of long-winged birds of prey similar to the hawks but genetically more closely related to the parrots and other birds. True falcons and their close relatives (genus Falco) range in size from the 61-2-in. (16.5-cm) falconet to the 24-in. (60-cm) gyrfalcon, and in habits from the swift merlin to the sluggish caracara. True falcons, distinguished by their notched beaks, are widely distributed. In flight their wingbeats are rapid and powerful, and they swoop hundreds of feet at speeds of up to 200 mph (320 kph) to capture their prey—chiefly birds and small mammals. They kill cleanly, usually breaking the back of their victim. Some members of the falcon family eat insects; the long-legged caracaras (found in South America, with one species, the northern, or crested, caracara ranging to the extreme S United States) feed also on carrion and sometimes rob other birds of their prey. The cosmopolitan peregrine falcon and the gyrfalcon of the arctic tundra have been much used in falconry. The commonest and smallest American falcon is the American kestrel, or sparrow hawk, F. sparverius (related to the European kestrel). Others are the merlin, or pigeon hawk (related to the European merlin), and the prairie falcon. Falcons build no nests but lay their eggs on the ground, on cliff ledges, or in the abandoned nests of hawks and crows. Falcons are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Falconiformes.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Peregrine Falcon

 

(Falco peregrinus), a bird of the order Falconiformes having a body length of 40–50 cm and a weight of 500–1,000 g. The females are larger than the males. The cap is slate-blue or reddish yellow; the back ranges in color from light slate-blue to almost black. The underparts are mottled—with small, sparse markings or large markings that almost merge into one another. The wings are long and pointed.

The peregrine falcon is widely distributed; it is absent in Antarctica and most of South America. In the USSR the bird’s range extends from the tundra to the southern borders; during migrations the bird enters the lowland steppes. The peregrine falcon nests in trees (occupying the former nests of other birds), on rocky ledges, on the ground, or, occasionally, in buildings (towers, belfries). A clutch contains three or four brick-brown eggs, which are incubated for 28 days. The young leave the nest in five or six weeks. The peregrine falcon preys mainly on birds, which it seizes in the air. It dives at velocities reaching 70–100 m per sec.

In some places the peregrine falcon is used as a hunting bird. The species is becoming rare. In the United States, where the bird has disappeared from the eastern states, attempts are being made to raise the peregrine falcon in captivity to restore the population.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

peregrine falcon

a falcon, Falco peregrinus, occurring in most parts of the world, having a dark plumage on the back and wings and lighter underparts
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005