The Peregrine Falcon feeds exclusively on birds, from small species weighing 10 grams up to birds of two kilos in weight, that is, more than double the weight of a female!
Peregrine eating a pigeon
Depending on where the Peregrine lives, it will tend to capture smaller or larger prey. In urban environs, for example, the feral pigeon (Columba
livia var. domestica) is one of its favourite prey, as are starlings (Sturnus
vulgaris). In coastal habitats, the Peregrine hunts a wide range of migratory species such as woodcock (Scolopax
rusticola) and lapwing (Vanellus vanellus), and marine species such as black-headed gull (Larus
Wherever it lives, therefore, it takes the most abundant species available, whether these stay all through year in the same area (residents), or are only present for part of the year (wintering or summer populations, or those in passage). All of this makes the Peregrine a "generalist" in terms of diet or what is the same, it feeds on the most abundant species at hand where it lives. This generalist behaviour has enabled it to colonise practically every corner of the world. In a nutshell, where there are birds, there are Peregrines, except in areas with harsh climates (deserts, tundra, polar ice caps, etc.) or with extensive vegetation coverage (rain forests).
Peregrines hunt in the air. As is logical, they must first seek out and choose their prey. Thanks to their eyesight -the sharpest in the animal kingdom- they can spot a quarry at hundreds of metres. To do this, they perch in a prominent spot or fly at great heights, scanning the sky. Once a quarry is spotted, whether it is flying high or perched atop of a building or cliff, they build up speed with rapid wing beats, and gain height, and then suddenly fold in their wings and plunge (known as "to stoop"), reaching speeds of up to 300km/h, making them the fastest animal in the world. If the wind is blowing in their favour, they strike their quarry from above, and gash it with their hind claws of their powerful talons and before the now-dead victim falls to the ground, they swoop under and catch it.
However, if the wind is blowing against them, they grasp their prey directly from below. On occasions, the Peregrine does not dive, but rather pursues its quarry with a flapping flight when the latter flies past.