- This bird of prey soars - then dives at high speed.
The peregrine falcon is a bird of prey – approximately the same size as a crow. The female is generally one-third larger than the male. The adult is slate-blue with white to dusty-coloured under parts that are barred on the chest, belly and flanks. It has a noticeable black “mustache” mark on its head, and a long tail that ends in a point. The peregrine falcon is renowned for its hunting ability. It will soar to a great height, then dive at a high speed and deliver a blow which either kills the prey instantly or knocks it out of the air. It can capture many small and moderate-sized birds, with a preference for shorebirds, ducks and pigeons. The peregrine falcon usually pursues its prey in open areas, such as shores, marshes, or forest clearings. It courts during the springtime and the female produces three-to-four eggs.
In New Brunswick, this falcon most often constructs its nest on a cliff. Occasionally, a nest can also be found on an office tower or bridge, but this usually occurs in large cities. Peregrine falcons have been known to nest on the Harbour Bridge in Saint John. The species experienced dramatic declines in the 1960s due to the use of DDT and other pesticides. In 1982, a program was established to reintroduce the peregrine falcon to the Bay of Fundy. We now have roughly a dozen nesting pairs a year in New Brunswick.
Two subspecies occur in New Brunswick. Falco peregrinus tundrius breeds in the Arctic and is seen in the province during migration. Falco peregrinus anatum breeds in New Brunswick, along the shores of the Bay of Fundy and the mouth of the Saint John River. Both subspecies typically winter in the southern and eastern United States through to South America. The peregrine falcon was never considered common in New Brunswick, and current population levels may be at historic levels. On a continental scale, the population has increased since the banning of DDT and initiation of conservation efforts.