LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Arkansas Game and Fish) -- This week's bird will be the Peregrine Falcon.
The name "Peregrine" means "wanderer", referring to the very long migration route this bird travels from the extreme northern arctic tundra in the breeding season to its wintering grounds in South America. They can be seen in Arkansas from mid-September through early May, though even then they are listed as "Migratory, uncommon", and "Winter Vagrant, uncommon".
Powerful and fast-flying, the Peregrine Falcon hunts medium-sized birds, dropping down on them from high above in a spectacular stoop. They were virtually eradicated from eastern North America by pesticide poisoning (DDT) in the middle 20th century, and were placed on the Endangered Species list.
After significant recovery efforts, Peregrine Falcons have made an incredible rebound, removed from the endangered species list in 1999, and are now regularly seen in many large cities and coastal areas. This is the largest falcon on the continent, and adults are blue-gray above with barred underparts and a dark head with thick sideburns. Juveniles are heavily marked, with vertical streaks instead of horizontal bars on the breast. Despite considerable age-related and geographic variation, an overall steely, barred look remains.
Peregrine Falcons catch medium-sized birds in the air with swift, spectacular dives, called stoops. In cities they are masterful at catching pigeons. Elsewhere they feed especially on shorebirds and ducks. They often sit on high perches, waiting for the right opportunity to make their aerial assault. Look for Peregrine Falcons perching or nesting on skyscrapers, water towers, cliffs, power pylons, and other tall structures. If a mudflat full of shorebirds and ducks suddenly erupts from the ground, scan the skies.
A Peregrine (or maybe a Merlin) is probably in the area. Peregrines can be seen all over North America, but they are more common along coasts.