Skip to content

(Falco peregrinus)

Peregrine Falcon

The peregrine falcon is an incredible survivor. Not only are they the fastest animal on the planet, reaching top speeds of over 320 km/h, they have also fought their way back from the brink of extinction.

These magnificent predators, once at risk of extinction due to the DDT pesticide scandal of the 1970s, have now become one of our most common birds of prey.

They owe their success to their ability to exploit human habitats to their advantage. Urbanisation is rapidly increasing, causing extreme and irreversible changes to natural landscapes. Major challenges arise from urbanisation for some species of wildlife through associated habitat loss and fragmentation, increased disease, noise and light pollution, human disturbance, increased mortality due to road traffic collisions, and high densities of domesticated predators such as cats (Felis catus). Although many species are unable to survive in urban environments, others are able to colonise and reproduce successfully in even the most extreme urban environments.

In the past, peregrine falcons were associated with remote rocky cliffs and wide open spaces, ideal for hunting. In recent times they have found a new habitat to exploit - our growing cities. The sight of peregrine falcons in towns and cities is nothing new. There are records of sightings of them in European cities as far back as the 15th century. However, these sightings were mainly of roosting birds in winter. Now, peregrines have begun to permanently move in, nesting and completing their entire life cycle in urban environments. Why have they chosen this urban lifestyle? It is likely for the same reasons as those of many humans! These are the availability of suitable homes, and also the availability and ease of finding food.

Tall city structures such as cathedrals, bridges or skyscrapers provide peregrines with a great deal of open space and an excellent perch for scanning the hunting area. They have adapted to our city habitats, taking up residence on our tallest city buildings, hunting the many pigeons below. Over recent years in Dublin city, peregrines have been observed nesting on the roofs of both the SIPTU building and the Clarence Hotel, and even on the Poolbeg chimneys! Research from the UK has shown that urban peregrines produced more fledglings and had a higher overall nesting success (i.e. whether a nesting attempt was successful or unsuccessful) than rural peregrines. Urban environments appear to provide peregrine falcons with superior habitats in terms of prey availability compared to rural habitats.

The resilience of these urban-living peregrines is remarkable, and one reason why you should look up the next time you take a stroll down a city street.


Peregrine Falcon is located at:
Natural History

Previous artefact:


Next artefact:

Bodhrán and Stick

Sign up to our newsletter

Keep up to date

Receive updates on the latest exhibitions