Found on all of the world’s continents apart from Antarctica, the peregrine falcon is one of the most numerous birds of prey out there. And there’s a reason for its phenomenal success: blistering speed. Pigeons in mid-flight can’t escape the claws of this plummeting speed demon, which can exceed over 320 kilometres per hour. Known as the stoop, this manoeuvre sees the falcon climb in altitude before dive-bombing like a feathery torpedo. Peregrine falcons are able to execute this move thanks to some precise physical adaptations. A streamlined body and tapered wings provide unrivalled velocity and thrust, and a razor-sharp beak and talons rarely let prey escape. A special third eyelid protects the bird’s eyes at high speeds, and tubercles in their nostrils stick out like small, bony cones to deflect the rushing air, allowing the peregrine to catch its breath.
Each bird requires around 70 grams of food per day – about two blackbirds. However, when a monogamous breeding pair has chicks to feed, this dinner quota rises steeply. In just three weeks the chicks grow to ten times their birth weight. To support this swift growth, the peregrine needs to be a successful hunter to keep the family fed. Here’s how they deliver the killer blow.