We would love to introduce our new Ambassador Peregrine Falcon. Her name is … UP TO YOU!
That’s right! You get to decide what we should name our newest Animal Ambassador! We will take name suggestions over the next week. Then on January 20th, voting will open on the top names submitted by the public and vetted by staff. We’ll explain voting more next week – but for now let’s get to know this beautiful bird, who for the time being we’ll call by her ornithological alpha code designation, PEFA (pea-fuh).
Pefa arrived in 2020 from a rehabilitation facility in Washington. She was not eligible for release because the severity of a wing injury meant she would not be able to survive in the wild. We suspect she is female because of her size, but as with many birds of prey it can be difficult to be absolutely sure. She is still very shy and can be startled by guests but has been growing accustomed to her handlers. She is working on becoming the best Animal Ambassador she can be!
Peregrine falcons are incredible birds and we are lucky to have them as a native species! Often touted as the fastest animal, they are formidable hunters that prey on other birds (and bats) in mid-flight. Peregrines hunt from above and, after sighting their prey, drop into a steep, swift dive that can top 200 miles an hour. In one study a peregrine is estimated to have reached a dive speed of 270! Peregrine falcons are among the world’s most common birds of prey and live on all continents except Antarctica. They prefer wide-open spaces, and thrive near coasts where shorebirds are common, but they can be found everywhere from tundra to deserts. Peregrines are even known to live on bridges and skyscrapers in major cities. These birds may travel widely outside the nesting season—their name means “wanderer.” Though some individuals are permanent residents, many migrate. Those that nest on Arctic tundra and winter in South America fly as many as 15,500 miles in a year. Yet they have an incredible homing instinct that leads them back to favored aeries. Some nesting sites have been in continuous use for hundreds of years, occupied by successive generations of falcons.
Peregrine populations were in steep decline during the mid-20th century, and in the United States these beautiful falcons became an endangered species. The birds have rebounded strongly since the use of DDT and other chemical pesticides was curtailed. Captive breeding programs have also helped to boost the bird’s numbers in the U.S. and Canada. Now populations are strong in those nations, and in some parts of the globe, there actually may be more peregrines than existed before the 20th-century decline.