Peregrine FalconFalco peregrinus
Status Rare transient, very rare in summer and winter. Formerly bred. After World War II, Peregrine Falcon populations declined drastically in various parts of the world from egg losses caused by DDT and other pesticides. By the mid-sixties no known breeding pairs remained in eastern North America south of the subarctic. With the almost complete ban of DDT in North America, survival of the species became possible, but its recovery remained in doubt until restocking programs were initiated. Since 1960, almost all sightings of birds in Nova Scotia have been during autumn migration, doubtless from the less troubled Arctic populations (about 210 individuals, average of first sightings 17 September, earliest 12 August). There have been a few sightings in winter (13 individuals) and in spring (13 individuals; average date of last sightings 13 May, latest 30 May). By contrast, only four birds were reported for the months of June and July between 1960 and 1979. However, beginning in 1982, the Canadian Wildlife Service began to release young falcons in Fundy National Park, New Brunswick, and near Advocate, Colchester County; a total of 19 had been released in Nova Scotia up to 1984. Summer sightings since 1980, including a banded young bird from such a release seen on Sable Island in late August 1982, give hope that the species will again become established in the province.
Description Length: 38-50 cm. Adults: Top of head, cheeks, and "moustache" very dark slate-gray; upperparts mainly dark bluish ash, barred and spotted with dark slate gray, lightest on rump; tail marked with six or more narrow black bands and broader subterminal blackish bar, and edged with white; throat and upper breast dirty white; underparts buff, regularly barred with dark brown; bill horn-coloured; legs and feet greenish yellow. Immatures: Upperparts dark brown; underparts lighter brown, heavily streaked with dark brown.
Breeding The following details concerning what is known of its former nesting activities in the province are given as a matter of record: during many years of field work only two instances of nesting have come to my attention. The first was on the cliff side of Diamond Island, one of the Five Islands group in Colchester County. I had been informed of its location by a resident of the village of Five Islands who told me the birds had been nesting there as far back as he could remember, but he did not know what kind they were. I visited the island on 13 June 1942 and while watching from the beach below soon saw a parent bird enter the eyrie with food for the young, whose cries were clearly heard following its arrival. This nest was practically inaccessible to humans, being approximately 30 m above the beach and probably that far down from the top of the cliff. To my knowledge this nest was not visited again until the summer of 1964 at which time Daniel D. Berger found no evidence of even recent occupancy. The other nest was near Advocate, Cumberland County. It was on a ledge of a perpendicular cliff, about 45 m up and equally far down from the top. This nest was reached by Lloyd Duncanson by means of a rope on 13 July 1955. It contained two young about ready to fly, and another near the nest had been dead for a week or longer.
Range Formerly bred throughout much of North America wherever there were mountains or cliff faces, south to northern Georgia in the east and the Mexican border in the west, but now extirpated except in the Arctic and subarctic, in scattered western parts and, with restocking, in a few parts of eastern North America. Other populations are found throughout much of the world.
Remarks Like a true sportsman, the Peregrine Falcon takes its game on the wing, striking it down with a spectacular blow of its powerful talons. There are times when it appears to enjoy pursuing prey only for sport. For instance, at Evangeline Beach, Kings County, on 12 August 1927, I watched one chasing a flock of small sandpipers out over the water. The hawk was in pursuit for longer than it would have taken it to make a kill. As the approximately 500 terrified birds twisted and turned in frenzied effort to elude their pursuer, the hawk dashed through their midst. After some moments, during which its aerial manoeuvres were obviously activated by play rather than ferocity, the falcon suddenly turned off empty-handed towards the wooded shore.
Most migrant birds are of the northern subspecies, Falco peregrinus tundrius, whereas formerly breeding (and restocked) birds belonged to the eastern Falco peregrinus anatum. The latter are darker than the northern birds and have been tentatively identified among northern migrants in recent autumns.
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