Peregrine falcons are known for their unrivaled speed and precision hunting, rather than being remarkable for their size or vast wingspan. But just how big is a peregrine falcon? And how do they compare in size to other similar birds of prey?
Read on, as we look into the average size, weight and wingspans of the world’s fastest bird.
Peregrine falcons are smaller in size than ospreys and eagles. They are roughly the same size as crows, and their streamlined shape enables them to hunt with speed and precision. They are by no means the biggest birds of prey, but are among the larger members of the falcon family.
Peregrine falcons are smaller in size than many eagles, buzzards and larger hawks, and this limits the prey they can successfully hunt to smaller animals and larger birds. Females are on average around 30 percent larger than males, and can weigh up to twice as much during the breeding season.
Keep reading to discover the vital statistics of peregrine falcons and find out how these fast-flying predators measure up to other birds of prey.
Peregrine falcons are large members of the falcon family, but are by no means the biggest when compared to all birds of prey
As with many birds of prey, female peregrine falcons are larger than males in length, as well as in mass and wingspan.
The wingspan of adult peregrine falcons is in the range of 79 cm to 114 cm (31.1 in to 44.9 in), with males at the lower end of the range and females typically at the higher end.
Like many other birds of prey, typically female Peregrine falcons are larger than males
As well as being greater in length than males, female peregrine falcons are also substantially heavier. During the breeding season, it’s not uncommon for females to weigh up to 50 percent more than males.
Peregrine falcons are way smaller than humans in stature, although their maximum wingspan is 114 cm (44.9 in), so at least half the height of even the tallest adult humans.
Peregrine falcon taking off for flight
Peregrine falcons can carry up to around half of their own body weight. If their prey is too heavy, they may resort to removing its head, wings or legs before attempting to fly off with it. The largest prey typically targeted by peregrine falcons include geese, ducks, and occasionally rabbits.
Despite being significantly smaller than many powerful raptors, such as eagles, ospreys and red kites, peregrine falcons use their size to their advantage. Being smaller and lighter enables them to fly faster as their bodies are more streamlined and aerodynamic.
The smaller size of Peregrines, enables them to be quicker as well as being more streamlined
Within the falcon family, peregrines are typically bigger than kestrels, hobbies and merlins, but slightly smaller than the largest falcon, the gyrfalcon. Peregrine falcons are similar in both size and coloring to Eurasian sparrowhawks.
Giants of the skies – golden eagles, white-tailed eagles, and Steller’s sea eagles, for example – have wingspans measuring more than twice as much as the peregrine falcon’s, although they are no match for a hunting peregrine in terms of speed.
Close up portrait of a Peregrine falcon
Typically hawks are larger than falcons, but within each family there are larger and smaller species. For example, peregrine falcons are considerably larger than sharp-shinned hawks.
In contrast, one of the largest hawk species – the red-tailed hawk – is on average larger than the peregrine falcon, although there is some slight overlap in size between the smallest male red-tailed hawks and the largest female peregrine falcons.
Ospreys are larger and heavier than peregrine falcons, with significantly wider wingspans. During the breeding season, female peregrines may have a slight edge on smaller male ospreys in terms of mass and length.
A peregrine falcon’s wingspan is in the range of 31.1 to 44.9 inches. Body length is between 14.2 and 19.3 inches for males and 17.7 to 22.8 inches for females.
Larger dogs would be too heavy for a peregrine falcon to pick up, and certainly wouldn’t be considered its typical prey. Small dogs could potentially be attacked, and although they are not the usual prey of peregrines, if desperate for food, then smaller breeds or puppies could be picked up.
Anecdotal reports do exist of peregrine falcons divebombing pets and carrying off kittens, although these are not especially common, and a larger, heavier cat would certainly prove more problematic.
Brighten up your inbox with our exclusive newsletter, enjoyed by thousands of people from around the world.