Behavior: The Solitary Nature of Peregrine Falcons

Peregrine in flight, Delaware (photo by Kim Steininger)

Because peregrine falcons treat their babies with such tenderness at the nest, we might assume they have the same care and emotions toward their young as we humans do.  This is not so.  Peregrines are very different.  Here’s how:

  • Peregrine falcons are solitary, territorial, top predators.  Those that migrate live alone more than 8 months of the year, spending only 16-18 weeks with a mate raising a family.  Non-migratory peregrines, such as those in Pittsburgh, stay on territory alone or as a mated pair.  No other peregrines are allowed in the territory, not even their own offspring.
  • Peregrines have no long-lasting “love” for their young.  Parents care for their nestlings, then teach them to hunt after they’ve fledged.  Four to six weeks later the parents wean the young and will no longer bring them food.  At that point the young must fend for themselves and leave the territory forever.  If they cannot feed themselves, they die.  This is The Way of the Peregrine.
  • Wild peregrine falcons regard humans with fear and loathing.  We are their enemies.  Being captured by a human is not a happy time for a peregrine.  As falconers will tell you, peregrines can become accustomed to humans and work with humans but they never love you.  They are always wild at heart.
  • Peregrine falcons do not have reunions with their relatives so siblings from different years and birds separated by more than one generation do not know they are related.  As my friend Karen likes to say, “They don’t have Thanksgiving dinner together.”

This poem, Hawk Roosting by Ted Hughes, is a good description of the solitary nature of birds of prey.


(photo by Kim Steininger)

15 thoughts on “Behavior: The Solitary Nature of Peregrine Falcons

    1. I thought that the Peregrine Falcon was my favorite bird. But now that I have read this article, it makes me afraid of them!

  1. Thanks for some of the answers I had thought of every day I watched Fuzzy/Silver. I am hoping for the best for this young one he deserves everything he can possibly obtain from the human side. Good Lucky big boy/girl.

  2. I think that Dorothy is an exception with her nurturing abilities. She has shown this in the past with “Henry” after his window mishap(which prompted his rename from “Screamer”, which was the endearing term for him at the time) and subsequent lengthy recovery at the nest. The extra care she showed him allowed him to recover properly, and his “screams” are still vivid in my mind, as he also hung around through the summer and she stayed near and even showed him her alternate hunting ground of the church steeple in Lawrenceville. We joked at the time that he was the adult child that would never leave, but he moved on after his “extra” TLC as expected.

  3. Thanks, Kate. I appreciate the beautiful birds in my backyard even more now. No wonder that we humans wish we could fly, too.

  4. Isn’t it wonderful that Nature has programmed such tenderness into mothering birds, even though it is not their nature to be tender.

  5. Thanks Kate. Was looking for info about the Peregrine Falcon that sits on the top of a tall building across my balcony. Its alone. Was wondering. Now I have the answer. It was not found at the spot for 2 weeks and last 2 days it appeared again. Where did it go for 2 weeks?

    Once again thanks for the excellent info.

    1. Sanjeev, birds of prey like to watch from various perches, a variety of favorite places. They visit them in rotation as the mood strikes. When the bird is not in sight it’s somewhere else in its territory — which may be several miles in diameter.

  6. I recently got close enough to falcons (about 300 ft) to take some great photos! But they spotted me and moved to a more protected site on the rock face.

    1. Verne, peregrines are very susceptible to disturbance and will abandon a nest site where people intrude. Please do NOT get close to take photos.

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