The Peregrine Falcon occurs on all continents except Antarctica. This wide distribution has resulted in it being well studied, and renowned for its incredible high-speed stoops that have been measured to exceed 240 km per hour. This species has evolved to hunt at high speed and its nostrils are shaped like the air-intakes of jet planes to enable it to breathe efficiently while in pursuit of its prey.
These falcons are relatively small, having a length of about 35 cm. However, the behaviour has resulted in great public appeal. The Peregrines feed mainly on birds, usually the size of doves, which they catch in flight or strike at great speed.
These falcons breed mainly on inaccessible cliffs but have adapted to man-made structures like tall buildings and disused quarries. A number of nest boxes have been placed on high-rise buildings around the Northern Suburbs and have successfully encouraged these scarce birds to breed.
As is the case with most raptors, the female is noticeably larger than the male. The nest is no more than a scrape in the sand in a pothole or on a sheltered ledge on a rocky cliff. Three to four eggs are laid and incubated by both sexes, with the female being responsible for the larger portion of this duty.
The heavily marked eggs hatch after about 30 days. The chicks, which initially are covered with white down feathers, have unusually large feet that are armed with sharp claws and use these fearsome weapons to defend themselves from potential predators. The youngsters fledge after 40 days and depend on their parents to develop their hunting techniques.
When you find yourself in the vicinity of the Tygerberg Hills, keep your eyes open for these fascinating birds that breed in and around the Tygerberg Nature reserve.