Status of the Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) in BC


The Peregrine Falcon includes three subspecies that are under protection by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and is considered as rare in British Columbia. Those three subspecies are the Peale’s Peregrine Falcon , the American Peregrine Falcon and the Arctic Peregrine Falcon (migratory bird). The COSEWIC is a national based organization for wildlife protection. The Peale’s Peregrine Falcon is on the blue-list for endangered species granting the species a stable population. Moreover, the Peale’s favorite residential environments are harsh landscapes. The American Peregrine Falcon is considered threatened due to it’s history with agricultural pesticide around the 1950’s and 60’s. The Arctic Peregrine Falcon is a migratory bird that comes through BC during migration from Arctic North America and Greenland. It is also identified as a species of ‘special concern’ by COSEWIC. This report has been written in order to specify management strategies that favor peregrine falcon populations, their habitat and food source.


The three Peregrine Falcon subspecies have been affected by environmental and industrial changes that have occurred throughout history. There are 19 subspecies of the peregrine falcon but only three are seen in BC.  The main historical event that has endangered and lowered the Peregrine’s population was the chemical contamination from pesticides. Although they also have to face a change in their habitat and nesting environment and the decrease in the population of their main prey.

The Peale’s main concerns regarding its conservation is prey population control. The Peale usually prey on seabirds. Even though the seabirds are in a protected area they still are endangered by oil spilling, mammalian predators that were introduced on the coast and the various environmental changes that can happen on the coast. Therefore, if the seabird populations are not protected it would be linked to the decline in the Peale’s population due to not having enough food. The main sightings of this species are on Queen Charlotte Island and on Triangle Island where they breed.

The American Peregrine’s population was the one to suffer the most from the chemical spread during the 1950’s and 60’s, known as the DDT crisis. However reports state that the American Peregrine’s population was already starting to decline before that. The Arctic Peregrine Falcon is a migratory species that breeds in the Northern Arctic area of America and Greenland. Unlike the other two subspecies the Arctic Peregrine is not as well known and there are knowledge gaps for this species. The American Peregrine is found in river canyons and cliff ledges usually in the interior BC: Skeena River Valley, Peace River Valley, Cariboo-Chilcotin and Southern Interior.

The Arctic Peregrine’s population also suffered from the DDT crisis. Due to their rare apparition in BC for a few years, there are no management plans concerning their conservation.

Even though their have been sightings of each subspecies in BC and a growth of population, they remain in the endangered category as there are still not  enough birds to keep a steady population. The population recovery was partly due to a reintroduction program in Canada and the United States.

Peregrine Falcons are adaptable species and can live in a varied range of habitat, and have preferred breeding sites in which they will come to every year. This also helps when it comes to doing surveys on the species. They also have a high tolerance to human disturbances, especially in urban areas where they do not get scared of human presence and the general noise of the city. However, in remote areas aerial disturbances are more likely to scare off the peregrine falcon.

There are still debates on falconry and if it is good for the conservation of the species. Falconers will in majority go for the first strongest young one, which is good as the second one will become the stronger of the hatch, and there will also be more food for the weaker ones, helping them survive.

As for their food, the three species generally hunt in the air. Their main food source are small birds which require an area with suitable hunting prey. Studies have shown that peregrine falcons’ populations can fluctuate: as their primary food source decline, they decline. Likewise they are also susceptible to environment changes.

Peregrines’ main predators are the Great Horned Owls, Northern Goshawks and Red Foxes.These predators are one cause of mortality, along with bad weather, reduced nesting success and Golden Eagles that take the young from the nests.

At this time, Peale’s population is starting to grow over the years, so there is not an urgent need to protect them as such but their population in BC is still not self-sustainable. As for the American falcon, its population growth is due inpart to the slow release of young from captive raised birds.

Legal Protections in effect and Management Strategies

As for the peregrine habitat areas, many of them are actually in protected areas and ecological reserves. There are many measure that were put in place to also protect their food supplies.

On an international scale peregrine falcons are protected by the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora ( CITES). This protection restrict the import and export of peregrine falcons and their eggs. They are not under the protection of the federal Migratory Birds Convention  Act, but some subspecies that are identified as at risk can come under the Species At Risk Act. As for BC, the three different subspecies are listed in the endangered species list: the peregrine falcon is red-listed while the Arctic and Peale’s falcons are blue-listed. The best protection act that exists in BC for peregrine falcons is the Provincial Wildlife Act. People who mistreat of the birds will be sanctioned with a fine up to $50,000 and serve six month in jail for a first offense.

There are natural limitations, human included, to those protections the loss of the peregrine’s habitat with the destruction of wetlands and cliff habitat in which the birds have to fight for nesting areas against other species is one example also, human impact the habitats when rock climbing. Protecting Falcon Prey to keep the population up might not be effective in some cases and weather and climate change cannot be controlled and may have a huge impact on the food sources.

There are many other possibilities to implement management plans or policies to protect the peregrine falcons. Some recommendations are protections against undue disturbance and poisoning with the exception on falconry once the populations recover to their full potential and are self-sustainable. There could also be the possibility of releasing captive-raised birds into several regions of BC with a suitable habitat. Moreover, public and private education would allow everyone to participate in stewarding the land they live in.

The most important need for the Peale falcon is the protection of their main prey on the coast: the seabird colonies. For the American falcon it is important to implement a wildlife management area where nesting is expected to be threatened.

BC has developed some of the best management practices which can be useful to protecting peregrine falcons. One of them is the cooperation between rock climbers and provincial agencies to avoid rock climbing areas where nests are. Each year a new report will state which cliff had the most nesting areas.

There is a lot of research to be done to fill in knowledge gaps. In order to do this there is a need for morphometric data from adults and fledged juveniles as well as blood samples from nestlings and adults. Much of this research is already undergoing. There is also the monitoring of agricultural pesticide to identify potential negative impacts.


The peregrine falcon subspecies found in BC have populations that are fairly secure, although an eye should be kept on them for protection and preservation. Even though they do not have their own conservation management plan they can go under several laws and policies that protect their nesting habitat and their primary source of foods.

Peregrine Falcon in:

  • Source COSEWIC 2007. COSEWIC assessment and update status report on the Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus (pealei subspecies - Falco peregrinus and paelei anatum/tundrius) in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa. vii + 45 pp. Avaialable at : [Accessed 03/2021].