Ole- Ole is a peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus). Peregrine falcons are found throughout the world and are the fastest animal on our planet! Ole is the newest member of our team, he joined in the middle of 2016. Ever since his arrival he has been working hard to talk with all of our guests and teach them about peregrine falcons. Ole’s favorite foods include quail and rabbits. Additionally, he’s rather fond of taking a mid-morning bath.
Peregrine Falcon Natural History Facts:
Identification: Peregrines are a large falcon with long, pointed wings and a long tapered tail. Females are noticeably larger than males. Juvenile peregrines are buff colored with dark streaking and checkered patterns on their underside. Adults are a slate-blue gray on the backside with a buff to tan colored underside and checkered wings underneath. All peregrines have dark “helmet” like coloring around their head. In Alaska, there are three subspecies of peregrine; tundra (F.p. tundrius), anatum (F.p. anatum) and Peale’s (F.p. pealei). The tundra subspecies is lighter than anatum or Peale’s in coloration and occupies the arctic tundra of the North Slope. The tundra subspecies is the most common across North America. In Alaska, anatum occupies rocky outcroppings and bluffs above river valleys. Peale’s is the darkest of the three, and lives in coastal regions in Alaska.
Hunting & Diet: Peregrines can get to high speeds in seconds due to their powerful and smooth wing beats. It is said their wings represent a cocked bow and arrow when in flight. They are able to reach speeds of 60 mph when flapping and speeds over 200 m.p.h. (242 has been fastest recorded) when stooping. The majority of a peregrine’s diet is small to medium sized birds. Because males are much smaller, they typically catch smaller ducks and song birds while the larger females will hunt larger shorebirds. A regular hunting method is to scout while perched and chase after passing birds. They will also soar high in the sky and when they spot prey, will stoop to catch it. Peregrines are known to ball their foot into a fist and punch the back of the prey’s neck, dislocating the cervical vertebrae.
Size: Males are between 14-16 inches in length with a wingspan between 37-39 inches and weighing between 1-1.5 pounds (454-680 grams). Females range between 16-20 inches in length and have a wingspan between 40-46 inches and weigh between 1.6-2.1 pounds (726-953 grams).
Habitat: Peregrines will nest in forest or open country. They are one of a few species of raptors that have adapted well to human habituation and will nest on tall buildings and bridges in cities where there are rock doves and gulls. They typically live in areas with cliffs and bluffs near rivers, oceans, lakes or bays.
Nesting & Breeding: To construct a nest, they will scrape a shallow hole for eggs on high ledges, cliffs or bluffs or building ledges in cities. Peregrines are known to reuse nests of other species if the nest is high enough in a tree. It is thought peregrines return to the same nesting site in consecutive generations. Sexual maturity occurs between two and three years old. Between one and five eggs are laid with about a month incubation period before hatching.
Most Common Problems: Wing injuries from hitting power lines. The species was on the brink of extinction in North America due to pesticide poisoning, mainly DDT. Due to extensive captive breeding programs the peregrine was taken off the endangered species list in 1999. Peregrines are no longer a species of concern in North America.