Pere­grine fal­con

The fastest rap­tor

World of Animals - - Remarkable Raptors -

Built for speed, the pere­grine fal­con’s anatomy al­lows it to fly at an un­be­liev­able pace

The pere­grine fal­con isn’t just the fastest rap­tor – this bird’s 200-mile-per-hour (321.9-kilo­me­tre-per-hour) nose­dive means it is widely con­sid­ered to be the quick­est an­i­mal on Earth!

Pere­grine fal­cons can be found on ev­ery con­ti­nent ex­cept Antarc­tica. They’re a com­mon sight world­wide, but it wasn’t al­ways this way. The pes­ti­cide DDT al­most wiped these im­pres­sive birds out in the 1960s, poi­son­ing them and pre­vent­ing suc­cess­ful breed­ing due to the un­nat­u­ral thin­ning of their eggshells. Thank­fully, DDT was banned in the 1970s, and pere­grines have been thriv­ing ever since.

These fal­cons are among the most recog­nis­able ur­ban birds, of­ten mak­ing their nests on sky­scrapers and other tall build­ings while pa­trolling the skies in search of pi­geons to feed on. Once they’ve set­tled in a spot, pere­grine fal­cons pre­fer to stay put; some pop­u­la­tions have re­turned to the same nest­ing sites for hun­dreds of years.

Al­most ev­ery­thing about the pere­grine’s anatomy is built for speed. Its large keel (a mod­i­fied breast­bone spe­cialised for flight) al­lows ex­tra mus­cle and flap­ping power, while its pointed wings and slim feath­ers make it ex­tremely aero­dy­namic. Its res­pi­ra­tory sys­tem has also evolved to han­dle break­neck speeds, with spe­cially adapted air sacs and a strong, rapid heart­beat that keep its body oxygenated at twice the fly­ing speed most birds can han­dle.

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