by Rebecca Chillrud
November 14, 2018
Peregrine falcons are well known for their incredible aerial skills. They are powerful fliers and can reach speeds of up to 200 miles per hour when diving. But these birds are also remarkable for a more romantic reason—they form monogamous bonds and mate for life.
Potential mates begin their courtship by perching on the same cliff, getting closer and closer until they are perched side by side. The birds may bow to one another and make “eechip” sounds. They then progress to preening or nipping at each other’s toes. Peregrines are also known to engage in billing, when one bird tilts its head and gently clamps the bill of its mate.
Prior to laying eggs, they also try to impress their mates with aerial displays of diving, barrel rolling and loops. This is more commonly done by the male, but can also be done by the female or as a pair.
Pairs will return to the same nesting site each year and lay an average of three to five eggs. The pair share the responsibility of incubating the eggs and taking care of the young, though the female takes on more of the work. Once the young become independent, usually within about six weeks, the pair goes their separate ways until the next mating season (mid-March to mid-May).
Peregrines in peril
Peregrine pairs are now fairly common throughout the Chesapeake region, but that wasn’t always the case. Like bald eagles and other raptors, peregrines were severely affected by the use of DDT, a toxic pesticide that entered the food chain and weakened their shells. DDT was introduced in the 1940s and by 1964, peregrine populations had declined to the point where no nesting pairs could be found in the eastern United States.
Fortunately, the species has made a remarkable recovery since DDT bans in the 1970s. By 1999, the peregrine falcon was removed from the Endangered Species List. In the years since, the Chesapeake Bay has reestablished itself as an important region for nesting and migrating peregrines.
Get a birds-eye view
If you want to learn more about how peregrine pairs interact, you can check some of the region’s critter cams and see it for yourself:
- Watch the Chesapeake Conservancy’s falcon camera to see “Boh” and “Barb” nesting on a skyscraper in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
- Tune in to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ falcon webcam to watch a pair of peregrines nesting in downtown Richmond, Virginia.
- Check out the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s falcon cam to watch a nest in downtown Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.