Species Profile

Peregrine Falcon pealei subspecies

Scientific Name: Falco peregrinus pealei
Other/Previous Names: Peale's Peregrine Falcon
Taxonomy Group: Birds
Range: British Columbia
Last COSEWIC Assessment: April 2007
Last COSEWIC Designation: Special Concern
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Special Concern

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Quick Links: | Taxonomy | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Other Protection or Status | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Peregrine Falcon pealei subspecies

Peregrine Falcon pealei subspecies Photo 1



Three of the 19 known subspecies of Peregrine Falcon are found in North America: Falco peregrinus anatum, F. p. tundrius and F. p. pealei.



The Peregrine Falcon is a crow-sized raptor with long pointed wings that enable it to fly at speeds as fast as 300 km per hour when diving at prey. Adults have a blackish stripe across the cheek below each eye, bluish-grey or slate-grey upperparts, and white to buff underparts with blackish brown bars across the sides and thighs and brown spots on the abdomen. The underside of the wings is white with blackish bars. The sexes differ in size, with females being larger than males. Young peregrines resemble the adults, but they have a dark brown cap and dark brown upperparts. They have a black facial stripe and a dark brown tail with buff bars and a white tip. Their underparts are buff coloured with brownish-black streaks. The three subspecies that breed in Canada are very similar, with slight differences in coloration and size. The pealei subspecies of the Peregrine Falcon is the largest and darkest of the three.


Distribution and Population

The Peregrine Falcon breeds on all the continents except Antarctica. It is absent only from New Zealand, Iceland and islands of the eastern Pacific Ocean. The pealei subspecies of the Peregrine Falcon is restricted to Pacific coastal areas of North America. In the United States it breeds from the Aleutian Islands and other coastal Alaskan islands south to Oregon. In Canada, it breeds on the Queen Charlotte Islands, Triangle Island, the central coast of British Columbia, northern and western Vancouver Island, and eastern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands south to Nanaimo. Some individuals of the pealei subspecies of the Peregrine Falcon do not migrate. However, most of the birds disperse to the south, wintering in coastal Washington, Oregon and California and rarely in northern Mexico. A national survey to determine population trends for breeding Peregrine Falcons has been conducted every five years in Canada since 1970. According to these surveys, the pealei subspecies of the Peregrine Falcon did not experience the declines observed in the other two subspecies in Canada, but it does appear to have been affected by a decrease in the abundance of its prey. The population of the pealei subspecies of the Peregrine Falcon has remained relatively stable, although it is still smaller than before the birds were exposed to organochlorine pesticides. Although the purpose of the surveys is not to determine population abundance, they do make it possible to estimate the minimum size of the breeding population. The survey information for the pealei subspecies of the Peregrine Falcons shows a total of 176 adult birds in 2005. Populations of the Peregrine Falcon also have the potential to increase if other conditions, such as food supply, remain stable, because a number of historical breeding sites remain unoccupied. For example, there are about 232 known nest sites in British Columbia, but only half of them are currently occupied. There is a high potential for immigration of individuals from the U.S. population of the pealei subspecies of the Peregrine Falcon to Canada. The population in the United States appears to be stable.



The Peregrine Falcon is found in a wide range of habitats, from Arctic tundra to sea coasts, prairies and urban centres. These falcons usually build solitary nests on cliff ledges or crevices, but they sometimes build their nests on the ledges of tall buildings or bridges, always near an abundant source of prey. Individuals of the pealei subspecies of the Peregrine Falcon often nest on small cliffs tucked underneath overhanging Sitka spruce roots, but they have been known to nest on cliffs as high as 366 m. These birds occasionally nest in tree nests that have been abandoned by cormorants or bald eagles or in natural tree cavities. Natural nesting habitat does not appear to have changed significantly since the populations crashed, and this habitat is still largely available for re-occupancy.



Members of the pealei subspecies of the Peregrine Falcon usually nest near a seabird colony: seabirds make up a large percentage of their diet. These falcons most frequently take auklets, storm-petrels and murrelets (mostly ancient murrelets) in flight. Other prey may include bats, rodents and other mammals. The Peregrine Falcon reaches reproductive maturity in its second year. Adults demonstrate a high degree of nest site fidelity, and some nest sites have been used year after year for decades. Nests are generally scraped in substrate on cliff ledges. Scraping in the substrate begins early in courtship and continues until egg laying, which occurs in April in the pealei subspecies of the Peregrine Falcon. In British Columbia, the Peregrine Falcon usually produces only one clutch of one to five eggs each year, with three or four eggs being most common. Incubation lasts between 32 and 35 days, and the female does almost all of the incubation of the eggs and brooding of the chicks. Nestlings leave the nest about 40 days after hatching, and they continue to be fed by the adults. The young may remain in the vicinity of the nest site for three to six weeks after fledging. Most juveniles disperse hundreds of kilometres from the area where they were born. Peregrine Falcons have a lifespan of 4 to 5 years, but some individuals are known to have lived 20 years. Although in some regions young falcons may fall prey to red foxes, golden eagles or great horned owls, predation is not a serious threat to the species. For the most northerly populations, mortality results primarily from climatic factors (cold, wet weather). In the fall, most Peregrine Falcons migrate south to the southern United States, Mexico, Central America or South America. However, some pairs that nest along the Pacific coast and in the southern interior of British Columbia may remain at nest sites through the winter if food supplies are adequate. This is especially true of individuals of the pealei subspecies of the Peregrine Falcon.



The main factor implicated in the widespread decline of Peregrine Falcon populations in North America is reproductive failure following exposure to organochlorine pesticides, particularly DDT, which causes the birds to produce eggs with shells so thin that they break during incubation. Since these chemicals were banned in Canada and the United States in the early 1970s and in Mexico in 2000, falling concentrations have been observed in the tissues of Peregrine Falcons, a situation that has been linked to an increase in annual survival rates for young falcons. The pealei subspecies of the Peregrine Falcon escaped the drastic declines caused by exposure to pesticides. However, it has recently been shown that new pesticides that are widely used in Canada, specifically polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), constitute a potential threat to the species. The effects of these chemicals, which are present in high concentrations in some Peregrine Falcons, are not known. Numbers of the pealei subspecies of the Peregrine Falcon are primarily influenced by the availability of their prey species. The population on Langara Island in British Columbia is known to fluctuate in response to changes in the numbers of seabird prey, especially the ancient murrelet. In some locations, seabird populations may be adversely affected by introduced mammalian predators and by oil spills, and local Peregrine Falcon numbers could decline if the abundance of their prey decreases. Other limiting factors include human disturbance at nest sites, potential for increased falcon harvesting for falconry, and illegal harvesting of eggs and nestlings for falconry.



Federal Protection

More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

In common with other raptors, Peregrine Falcons are not protected under the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 or the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. Most nest sites of the pealei subspecies of the Peregrine Falcon are in provincial parks or ecological reserves or in Canadian national park reserves, where they are protected. The species is also protected under the British Columbia Wildlife Act, which makes it an offence to harm, kill or collect birds, eggs or nests or to destroy occupied nest sites.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.


Other Protection or Status

The Peregrine Falcon is also listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which regulates international trade in species that are or may be threatened by commercial trade.


Recovery Progress and Activities

Summary of Progress to Date Capturing of all subspecies of Peregrine Falcon has not been permitted in British Columbia since 1988/89 and is protected by the British Columbia Wildlife Act. Seabirds are the primary prey of the F.p. pealei subspecies and most major known seabird colonies in coastal British Columbia are under some form of protected area status. The British Columbia Peale’s Peregrine Falcon population has been stable to increasing since standardised 5-year surveys began in 1970. Since then, the number of known occupied nests has increased from 62 to 109, although a large part of this increase is due to increased survey coverage. Summary of Research/Monitoring In conjunction with the national Peregrine Falcon surveys, standardised monitoring of Peale’s Peregrine Falcons has been taking place every 5 years since the 1970’s. The population on Langara Island has been banded, assessed for productivity, and sampled for blood and feathers annually for 37 consecutive years. In addition, studies at nests around Vancouver Island between 2000 and 2005 involving inventory and monitoring, blood sampling, banding, and radio-telemetry have tried to determine residency, winter movement patterns, habitat use, potential critical habitat, productivity, toxicity, and genetic information. Results from the blood sample analyses have confirmed the genetic differences among Peale’s Peregrine Falcons of the Queen Charlotte Islands and North and West Vancouver Island peregrines. It has also shown that Gulf Island nests and other sites in the Strait of Georgia thought to have only F.p. anatum, actually have F.p. pealei as well. Summary of Recovery Activities In the mid 1990’s, the Canadian Wildlife Service conducted a major rat eradication program on Langara Island to recover the declining Ancient Murrelet population, which is an important food source for the Peregrine Falcon. The eradication was successful and there is evidence that falcon populations are rebounding. The British Columbia government has been actively involved in Peregrine Falcon outreach activities including delivering public presentations, gathering information from the public, developing fact sheets, and creating beneficial management practices guidelines to assist municipalities and developers in understanding raptor conservation in urban and rural areas. In addition, the government is developing a provincial status report on the species and a management plan for the Peale’s subspecies,and has participated in recovery planning activities on the national Peregrine Falcon Recovery Team. URLs British Columbia’s Wildlife at Riskhttp://wlapwww.gov.bc.ca/wld/documents/perfal_s.pdf 1988 Peale’s Peregrine Falcon in BC: Status and Managementhttp://wlapwww.gov.bc.ca/wld/documents/peales.pdf The Birds of North America Onlinehttp://bna.birds.cornell.edu/BNA/demo/account/Peregrine_Falcon/MEASUREMENTS.html

Hinterland Who's Who: Peregrine Falcon: http://www.hww.ca/hww2.asp?pid=1&cid=7&id=60



PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

10 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC Assessment and Update Status Report on the Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) in Canada (2007)

    The Peregrine Falcon is a crow-sized, medium to large falcon with long, pointed wings. Plumage and morphological differences exist between the three subspecies, Falco peregrinus anatum, F. p. tundrius and F. p. pealei that occur in Canada. Differences are, however, generally clinal, with paler birds occurring in dry areas and darker birds in wetter areas, and smaller birds in the north and larger birds in the south and west.

COSEWIC Assessments

  • COSEWIC Assessment - Peregrine Falcon (2007)

    The Peregrine Falcon in Canada was originally evaluated by COSEWIC as three separate subspecies: anatum subspecies (Endangered in April 1978, Threatened in April 1999 and in May 2000), tundrius subspecies (Threatened in April 1978 and Special Concern in April 1992) and pealei subspecies (Special Concern in April 1978, April 1999 and November 2001). In April 2007, the Peregrine Falcon in Canada was assessed as two separate units: pealei subspecies and anatum/tundrius. The Peregrine Falcon pealei subspecies was designated Special Concern in April 2007. Peregrine Falcon anatum/tundrius was designated Special Concern in April 2007. Last assessment based on an update status report.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Peregrine Falcon pealei subspecies (2007)

    This subspecies occurs in small numbers along most of the coastal area of British Columbia, where it breeds mostly in protected areas. Its population has shown ongoing increases in size over the last 35 years. Immigration from the United States, where numbers are stable, is likely.

Action Plans

  • Multi-species Action Plan for Gulf Islands National Park Reserve of Canada (2017)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for Gulf Islands National Park Reserve of Canada applies to lands and waters occurring within the boundaries of Gulf Islands National Park Reserve (GINPR). The plan meets the requirements for action plans set out in the Species at Risk Act (SARA (s.47)) for species requiring an action plan that regularly occur at this site. Measures described in this plan will also provide benefits to other species of conservation concern that regularly occur at GINPR.
  • Multi-species Action Plan for Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site (2016)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site meets the requirements for an action plan set out in the Species at Risk Act (SARA (s.47)) for species requiring an action plan that occur inside the boundary of the site. This action plan will be updated to more comprehensively include measures to conserve and recover the marine species at risk once the first integrated Land, Sea, People management plan for Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve & Haida Heritage Site (hereafter called Gwaii Haanas) is complete. Measures described in this plan will also provide benefits for other species of conservation concern that regularly occur in Gwaii Haanas.
  • Multi-species Action Plan for Pacific Rim National Park Reserve of Canada (2017)

    Backed by the Insular Mountain Range of Vancouver Island and facing the open Pacific Ocean, Pacific Rim National Park Reserve of Canada (Pacific Rim NPR) protects and presents the rich natural and cultural heritage of Canada's west coast. Pacific Rim NPR consists of three distinct units, the Long Beach Unit, Broken Group Islands Unit, and West Coast Trail Unit, each offering a range of unique visitor experiences. With significant areas (51,216 ha in total) of old growth, temperate rainforest, coastal dune systems, wetlands and foreshore, and marine habitats, the park demonstrates the interconnectedness between land, sea, and people. These natural wonders are interwoven with the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations culture (past and present), and that of European explorers and settlers.

Management Plans

  • Management Plan for the Peregrine Falcon pealei subspecies (Falco peregrinus pealei) in Canada (2017)

    The Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for the Parks Canada Agency is the competent minister under SARA for the Peregrine Falcon pealei subspecies and has prepared the federal component of this management plan (Part 1), as per section 65 of SARA. To the extent possible, it has been prepared in cooperation with the Province of British Columbia, as per section 66(1) of SARA. SARA section 69 allows the Minister to adopt all or part of an existing plan for the species if the Minister is of the opinion that an existing plan relating to wildlife species includes adequate measures for the conservation of the species. The Province of British Columbia provided the attached management plan for the Peregrine Falcon pealei subspecies (Part 2) as science advice to the jurisdictions responsible for managing the species in British Columbia. It was prepared in cooperation with Environment and Climate Change Canada and the Parks Canada Agency.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2007 (2007)

    2007 Annual Report to the The Minister of the Environment and the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act - Terrestrial Species (2008)

    As part of its strategy for protecting wildlife species at risk, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Please submit your comments by March 25, 2008 for species undergoing normal consultations and by March 27, 2009 for species undergoing extended consultations.

Recovery Document Posting Plans

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada's Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan (2016)

    Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan identifies the species for which recovery documents will be posted each fiscal year starting in 2014-2015. Posting this three year plan on the Species at Risk Public Registry is intended to provide transparency to partners, stakeholders, and the public about Environment and Climate Change Canada’s plan to develop and post these proposed recovery strategies and management plans. However, both the number of documents and the particular species that are posted in a given year may change slightly due to a variety of circumstances. Last update March 31, 2017