Peregrine Falcon Hunts with Agility and Grace

In the spirit of National Wildlife Week, I’m reading up on one of my favorite kinds of wildlife—at least, of the avian variety—the peregrine falcon.

The word “peregrine” means “wanderer.” In keeping with its name, the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) makes itself at home in a wide variety of habitats, ranging from tropical forests to ocean cliffs, tundra, deserts, and even cities. In North America, it breeds from Alaska and the Canadian Arctic southward, and many migrate along the coasts as far as southern South America. The peregrine falcon population declined steeply after World War II due to the widespread use of DDT and other pesticides, which caused the eggshells of many birds of prey to become too thin to support the weight of a mother bird. The peregrine population eventually rebounded after DDT was banned in the United States in 1972, and the American peregrine falcon was removed from the endangered species list in 1999.

When the peregrine falcon accelerates into its aerial hunting dive, its speed can reach 200 miles per hour (!). These high-speed stoops allow peregrines to catch a variety of birds on the wing, from city-dwelling pigeons to ducks. Immature peregrines are brown with buff-colored, heavily streaked underparts. Adults are slate-gray in color, with black, helmet-like markings on their heads, and buff-colored, lightly barred bellies. Peregrine coloring can vary by region—those in northwestern North America often have the darkest feathers, whereas those in the Arctic are notably pale.

This raptor’s majestic beauty while soaring through the air always amazes me. Such relatively small animals can have enormous strength and grace. Artist Robert Giusti‘s rendering of the peregrine captures all the drama of this falcon’s existence, and much more.

The 85-cent Birds of Prey stamps were issued in self-adhesive sheets of 20 at a price of $17.00 per sheet. These stamps are designed for heavier single-piece First-Class Mail weighing more than two ounces and up to and including three ounces.