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Peregrine Falcons
Urban Dwellers
Peregrine falcons are found nearly worldwide and prefer to live on cliffs with open hunting areas below. Two of the most exciting locations to see them are at the tip of the African continent near Cape Town, South Africa, and on the cliffs at Lands End near Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. They have become well established in urban areas, finding skyrises and bridges quite suitable substitutes for craggy rocks. A large number of webcams have been established in towns and cities worldwide to allow researchers to observe the birds for scientific studies and to increase public understanding and appreciation of this beautiful species.

Of the two dozen pairs of peregrines located in the Greater Bay Area, the most well-known are San José’s City Hall falcons and George and Gracie in San Francisco, whose nestcams have resulted in media publicity throughout the region and nationally. In 2005, PG&E partnered with the Predatory Bird Research Group to establish a nestcam on the 33rd story of PG&E headquarters, where the pair nested and fledged three young. In 2006, they moved across the street and fledged another son. In the spring of 2007, they moved their nest to the Oakland-Bay Bridge and laid three eggs. On March 31, the eggs were rescued by the Santa Cruz group and will instead be incubated and hatched in Santa Cruz and then released along the Santa Barbara coast.

Wonderful Wanderers
Peregrinus is Latin for “wandering” and aptly describes the peregrine’s migrations, which in some U.S. and Canadian subspecies can range from the Arctic tundra to South America. How fast are they? Their cruising speed seems to be 45 to 60 mph, with hunting speeds of up to 75 mph. Long distance dives with wings partially or fully closed (called “stoops”) have been reported by falconers and skydivers as exceeding 200 to 250 mph. What do they catch? The species as a whole preys chiefly on birds. In San José, they feed mostly on pigeons, starlings and sparrows. For more information on peregrine falcons, check with San José Public Library.

In urban settings, peregrines have few predators, but there is always danger from other quarters. Here’s wishing our two new friends success this nesting season, and for many more to come.