Learn about native animals

Adelaide's peregrine falcon

Who am I?

I’m commonly known as a Peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus), and I have also been known as the ‘duck hawk’ or ‘pigeon hawk’– as these birds are some of my favourite snacks!

I’m known for my speed. I have been recorded diving at my prey at more than 300 kilometres an hour. It’s so fast that I can sound like a jet!

Am I faster than a cheetah?

You bet! I’m the fastest animal on the planet.

What do I look like?

I’m a large, powerful bird of prey, also known as a raptor. I have a black head with bluish-grey feathers on my back and a creamy-white chin and throat. My lower breast and belly are a light grey colour, covered in fine black bars. I have long pointed wings with fine black and white bars scattered along the wings and tail.

My keen hunting eyes are surrounded by a distinctive yellow ring and yellow surrounds my grey and black-tipped bill. My legs and feet are also yellow. I have long, black and powerful claws (also known as talons) to snatch and grip my prey.

When fully grown, our bodies are around 34-58 centimetres long with a wingspan of up to 1.2 metres. Females are about 30% larger than the males.

Where do I live?

Almost everywhere! Although I’m not common, I am the world’s most widespread raptor.

I have been found on every continent except for Antarctica. I don’t like extreme cold, very high mountains and tropical rainforests. I can be found anywhere from the coastline to woodlands.

I can often be found in major cities where I nest on the ledges of tall buildings. As long as there is a secure site to nest and lots of prey to eat then I’ll be around. Sometimes I will nest in tree hollows or nests built by other birds.

In Adelaide, you can find me in the heart of the city nesting on the ledges of tall buildings and feeding on pigeons and other birds. I can also be spotted near the Devil’s Nose Lookout in Para Wirra Conservation Park as well as Morialta Conservation Park, and the cliffs of Murray River National Park and Morgan Conservation Park to name just a few.

What do I like to eat?

Ducks, pigeons and other small to medium-sized birds. I will sometimes eat small reptiles and mammals such as rabbits and rats. When hunting, I first fly to a great height to spot my prey, and once my target is in sight, I dive at tremendous speed often colliding with it and stunning it, then I clutch it with my sharp claws, and carry it off to a perch to eat.

What do I sound like?

My loud, shrill, repetitive call can be heard from hundreds of metres away and has been described as sounding like ‘hek-ek-ek' with males having a higher pitch than females. Listen to my call.

What are my breeding habits?

Once I have found a mate I am paired for life with them. I don’t stray too far from my nesting location once established, although I am capable of travelling hundreds of kilometres.

Females lay around 3-4 creamy-white eggs with rust-coloured speckles, and will incubate the eggs while the male sources the food. When our young have hatched, both parents hunt to provide food, but females will pluck the feathers before feeding it to her chicks.

By 6 weeks of age our young are fully independent, and have learnt to catch their prey from watching their parents. Our young usually reach sexual maturity at 2-3 years old, and we live up to 15 years. Although our young will disperse widely, they often return home to breed when they get older.

What can you do to help?

Raptors such as us are vital to Adelaide because we are a sign of a healthy ecosystem, and we feed on pest species like European starlings and feral pigeons.

My conservation status in South Australia is considered rare, indicating you can find us around but there are not lots of us out there. I am protected under the South Australian National Parks and Wildlife Act to help reduce the risk of people disturbing me and my nest.

Because I like to nest on the ledges of high rise buildings, please avoid doing any building maintenance while I'm trying to raise a family.

Please be aware that the use of rat poison can kill birds like me. If you choose to use poison to control rats and mice, please look into bird-friendly rodent control to ensure you are not poisoning me along with your unwanted pests.