The Peregrine Falcon

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The peregrine falcon belongs to a group of birds called the Falconiformes. This group includes vultures, kites, hawks, eagles, and falcons. Other than vultures, all of these birds hunt and kill other animals for food. Falconiformes are equipped with hooked beaks and strong talons, making them excellent predators. All Falconiformes are daytime hunters.

The peregrine falcon is the best-known of the fifty-eight birds in the falcon family. The word Peregrine comes from a word that means, 'one who wanders.' This falcon has definitely earned its name. For example, some of Canada's tundra peregrines fly to Brazil each winter.

Peregrine falcons are found in every single part of the world except Antarctica. They were once trained by kings to hunt and bring back kills. This sport, called Falconry, is still popular. However, in the 1960s the American falcon came close to extinction. Most of the damage was done by poisons that farmers used to kill insects.

The worst poison was DDT. By the time naturalists learned of DDT's effect on wildlife, it was almost too late.

The American peregrine's scientific name is Falco peregrinus anatum. At one time, people called this falcon a duck hawk. That was a poor name, since falcons aren't hawks and they rarely kill ducks. The American peregrine was once found all across the eastern United States and southern Canada. In the west, the species was found from Mexico to California. DDT poisoning hit this subspecies the hardest. Even today, naturalists are still working hard to save the American peregrine from extinction.

The smaller tundra peregrine (Falco peregrinus tundrius) lives farther north. Tundra peregrines range across the treeless regions of Alaska and Canada. They are also found in Greenland. Peale's peregrine (Falco peregrinus pealei) is the third North American subspecies. This...