Eyes of a Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon’s Eyesight Functions in a World Moving Much Faster Than Our Own

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) is the fastest animal alive.

The expressions, “eyes like a hawk,” “watching someone like a hawk” or “eagle-eyed” refers to the amazing eyesight of all birds of prey, not just eagles and hawks.

But what about the incredible eyesight of the Peregrine Falcon?

Being falcon-eyed means having bright and keen eyesight.

Peregrine Falcons dive at speeds faster than 180 MPH in pursuit of prey and lock in and snatch it mid-air
Peregrine Falcons dive at speeds faster than 180 MPH in pursuit of prey and lock in and snatch it mid-air

Falcon’s Hyper Vision

Peregrine Falcon's eyesight is 8 times better than humans
Peregrine Falcon’s eyesight is 8 times better than humans

Think about this.

If a peregrine is capable of hunting in a 180 MPH dive, then nature outfitted this bird to function in a world moving much faster than our own.

A peregrine’s brain evolved to provide these birds with a hyper vision capable of processing images at a higher speed than human brains.

World Becomes a Blur 

Human brains evolved to comprehend anything above 60Hz (or flashes of light) per second as a solid stream of light.

This rate is referred to as the Flicker Fusion Frequency (FFF).

It’s defined as the frequency at which an intermittent light stimulus appears to be completely steady to the average human observer.

Human vision has an FFF of 60Hz, which works best with walking and running speeds.

When humans move faster than these speeds, the world appears blurrier to us.

When we’re driving a car at higher speeds, our ability to see obstacles decreases.


Peregrines See World in Impeccable Detail 

But birds of prey, like the Peregrine Falcon, developed a faster FFF for avoiding obstacles and having a quicker reaction time while hunting.

Birds of Prey process much more visual information than humans because their FFF is higher than 100 Hertz per second.

Peregrine Falcon see the world in incredible detail
Peregrine Falcon see the world in incredible detail

These birds live in a much faster world than humans.

And the ability to see the world in great detail is what allows birds of prey to be extraordinary hunters.

Spotting Prey a Mile Away

Peregrines and other birds of prey can spot their prey more than one mile away.

To us, it’s like seeing a rabbit from 17.6 football fields.

Their visual sensory cells, rods (perceiving luminance) and cones (perceiving color), are more tightly packed.

Humans have roughly 30,000 cones in our fovea.

The fovea is the part of the eye responsible for our sharpest vision and used for activities where we need to see the greatest details.

Birds of prey have around one million cones in their fovea.

Peregrines Binocular Vision

And falcons and other raptors have two foveae in each eye (humans have one in each eye) helping it see better.

This allows a substantial part of their field of vision to be processed through the most visually clear part of the retina, creating a hyper vision for a much more detailed image.

Peregrines Falcons have binocular Vision
Peregrines Falcons have binocular Vision

Two Foveae are Better Than One

Having two foveae allows birds of prey to focus on more objects at a time.

The shallow fovea is forward-looking focused, providing binocular vision allowing falcons to see objects far away and judge distances.

The second fovea, the deep fovea, is lateral-looking.

It provides visual information about close objects on their sides.

This is best described as seeing the world through both a macro and zoom lens simultaneously.

One fovea focusing on fine details right in front of you and the other looking at an object further away.


Falcons See UV Light

UV Not only can falcons see things more clearly than humans, but their eyes also allow them to see ultraviolet light (UV), humans can’t see.

The ability to see UV give falcons an advantage when hunting.

Animals like mice and voles leave behind feces trails that are like neon trails of the animals themselves.

So the next time someone tells you that you have “eyes like a hawk,” you might want to say to them that seeing the world through a falcon’s eyes is pretty amazing too.



NOTE: The beautiful Peregrine Falcon featured in this story is named Equinox.

She’s a bird ambassador at Christine’s Critters, Inc., a non-profit 501(c)(3) created in 2015 whose mission is to rescue, rehabilitate and release injured birds of prey.

This beautiful Peregrine Falcon is named Equinox and she's a bird ambassador for Christine's Critters
This beautiful Peregrine Falcon is named Equinox and she’s a bird ambassador for Christine’s Critters

Christine’s Critters relies on donations and program fees to care for 21 permanent resident birds of prey, 30 reptiles, 2 amphibians, 1 tarantula and the 200 or more birds that are admitted into rehabilitation each year.

To get involved, donate, or send needed supplies from Christine’s Critters’ Amazon Wishlist or just volunteer go to https://www.christinescritters.org/get_involved.


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    • Hi LeAnn. Technically, yes, Peregrine Falcons are born blind. Peregrine Falcon chicks are altricial, meaning they are born “wet,” naked, blind and helpless, eventually gaining their eyesight after about one week of age.

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