The peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) is a widespread bird of prey in the family Falconidae. Large (about the size of a crow), it has a blue-grey back, barred white underparts, and a black head and “moustache”. Females are considerably larger than males. The peregrine is renowned for its speed, reaching over 200 mph (322 km/h) during its dive, making it the fastest member of the animal kingdom.
The peregrine can be found nearly everywhere on Earth, except extreme polar regions, very high mountains, and most tropical rainforests; the only major ice-free landmass from which it is entirely absent is New Zealand. This makes it the world’s most widespread raptor and one of the most widely found bird species. The only land-based bird species found over a larger geographic area is the rock pigeon (introduced by humans in many regions), which now supports many peregrine populations as prey.
While its diet consists mainly of medium-sized birds, the peregrine will occasionally hunt small mammals, small reptiles, or even insects. Reaching sexual maturity at one year, it mates for life and nests in a scrape, normally on cliff edges or, in recent times, on tall human-made structures. The peregrine falcon became an endangered species in many areas because of the widespread use of certain pesticides, especially DDT. Since the ban on DDT from the early 1970s, populations have recovered, supported by large-scale protection of nesting places and releases to the wild.