The Peregrine falcon is one of the most widely distributed vertebrates on the planet. Its range spans as far north as the tundra to the deep tropics, with habitats ranging from coastlines to wetlands, woodlands and deserts. They’re absent from only Antarctica, parts of the Amazon, the Sahara desert, and parts of central and eastern Asia.
Peregrine falcons are exceptionally adaptable, but they’re also highly talented hunters and the fastest member of the animal kingdom, obtaining diving speeds of over 186mph (300kph). So, how long do Peregrine falcons live?
Peregrine falcons live for around 5 to 6 years on average, with the very oldest on record obtaining the age of 18 and 19. However, it’s estimated that just some 3% survive past the age of 10. Around half of all Peregrine falcons die in their first year, often within weeks of hatching.
Like many birds, Peregrine falcons are most vulnerable in their first year alive. As many as 70% of all Peregrine falcons die in their first year, failing to see their 1st birthday.
After one year, survival rates increase to around 60 to 70%, meaning around 3 out of every 10 adult Peregrines are likely to die in any one year. There are a handful of records of Peregrine falcons living for as long as 19-years.
Of course, there is much more to learn about the lifespan of this wonderful bird - read on to learn more!
In the wild, Peregrine Falcons usually live for between five and six years
Peregrine falcons have an average life expectancy of around 5 to 6 years. However, as many as 50 to 70% of birds die in the first year, with many dying in their first month. Birds who survive are likely to make it to age 5 or 6.
There are numerous records of Peregrine falcons living for longer than 5 to 6 years, up to around 18 to 19 years at the very most. One such contender was banded in Alaska in 1981 and trapped alive in California in 2000, making it at least 19 years old.
Peregrine falcons live longer in captivity on average, but only rarely attain the age of 18 or 19. There are records of captive Peregrine falcons reaching the age of 20 to 25.
Peregrine Falcon perched on a broken branch
Most Peregrine falcons die as nestlings. In fact, as many as 70% of Peregrine falcons die in the first year alive - the majority in the first month.
Nestlings and juveniles are eaten by corvids, owls, occasionally eagles, and other birds of prey. Predation by land mammals is less common.
As juveniles and adults, many urban and suburban populations of Peregrines die due to collisions or accidents involving human structures. In one study of 455 deceased Peregrines, some 78 died through collisions with buildings and 50 by vehicle collisions.
Starvation is another major cause of mortality. In addition, peregrines are affected by many parasites and bacterial and fungal infections.
Peregrine falcons have a slow lifecycle, as they take up to 5 years to reach sexual maturity in some cases. However, most females are ready to breed around the age of 3.
Close up of a juvenile Peregrine Falcon
Adult Peregrine falcons have no real natural predators. Still, they may rarely become injured or die from encounters with large prey or other predators such as owls, eagles, wolverines, bears, cats, and foxes.
Nestling and juvenile Peregrine falcons also face threats from the above animals. In addition, young nestlings and eggs are also occasionally predated by owls and corvids such as crows and magpies.
There are a few contenders for the oldest wild Peregrine falcon. The most convincing is a female banded in Alaska, along the Colville River, in 1981. It was later trapped alive in California in 2000, making it approximately 19-years and 9-months old.
Another was banded in Minnesota in 1992, and seen alive in 2012, also around the age of 19 and 9-months old.
One female that lived above the Sun Life building in Montreal (a famous successful urban population of Peregrines) disappeared after 18 years.
Peregrine Falcon in flight
Peregrine falcons gorge themselves on food when available, storing any excess in their large crop. Crops are specialized stomach pouches designed to save excess food for later.
As such, Peregrines likely do not need to feed every day. They also cache excess food - some large caches of some 20 Mourning doves have been found next to Peregrine nests!
By some estimates, Peregrines consume around 70 grams (2.5 ounces) of food per day. Kills can weigh from 50 to 500g.
Since Peregrine falcons are distributed throughout much of the world, their habitats vary massively. Peregrines distributed towards the north of their range nearly always migrate in winter.
Many Canadian and northern US populations head to the southern USA and Central and South America. In Europe, most Peregrines in Scandinavia and north Russia migrate southwards to central and western Europe, Asia, and Africa.
Peregrines are hardy birds, but migration is important to enable access to enough prey to sustain the birds over the winter.
Peregrine Falcon gliding through the sky
Globally, Peregrine falcons aren’t considered a threatened species and are listed as Least Concern under CITES I. Legal protection across the UK, the US, and much of Europe has helped preserve the small populations of this reasonably uncommon bird of prey.
In the USA, the Peregrine falcon was delisted from the Endangered Species Act in 1999. Its conservation status is listed as Green in the UK.
For more information on the status of Peregrine Falcons, check out this guide.
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