One of the most unforgettable natural phenomena is the sight of the peregrine falcon diving down through its aerial "stoop", like a fighter jet, striking its oblivious winged prey at 200 miles per hour and knocking it cold with a blow of its balled-up talons. They then follow the prey to the ground and kill it by severing the vertebrae in the neck, with a special notch in their peaks, called the tomial tooth, a feature which helps distinguish falcons from hawks and eagles. They also kill their prey by grasping it in their talons as other raptors do.
Due to air pressure, diving at such high speeds complicates the simple act of drawing air for breathing. Fighter jet engines feature air inlet cones, which enable the engine's intake of air at supersonic speeds, by breaking up and slowing the air intake, to subsonic speeds. This appears to mimic the nares, in effect, nostrils, in a peregrine's cere, which contain bony tubercles, conical valves which slow down the air rushing over the diving peregrine's nares, allowing the peregrine to breathe at speeds where the air pressure would otherwise prevent their doing so.
A peregrine falcon is most readily identified by its "malar stripe", the dark band or mask extending from its crown down across the eye. the Peregrine resembles an arrow both in the air and perched. Their favorite food are pigeons, jays, black birds and water birds. Most insect eating birds are now in decline from newer pesticides, so the peregrine faces another threat. Do you think that the fact that the red knot, a chunky sandpiper, has been clocked at 110 MPH in straight flight has any thing to do with the hunting habits of the peregrine falcon?
The peregrine lives on rocky cliffs, generally
unapproachable from the ground, and
facing southeast, south or southwest, to catch the early morning sun. Through binoculars, look for evidence of
whitewash from the falcon's excrement and blowflies feeding on
decomposing prey fragments.
Peregrines are the favored bird of falconers,
and have been used in hunting for thousands of years. Falconers played
role in the Peregrine’s recovery after their decline during the DDT
Peregrines don't build nests, but scrape a small depression on a cliffside, preferably near water. Ironically, the peregrines’s nesting preference made it very comfortable nesting on New York City skyscrapers, a fact which contributed greatly to its restoration, and put a welcome check on the ever-burgeoning pigeon population. The female peregrine lays 3 to 4 eggs, which she incubates for about 34 days. The hatchlings fledge after 5 or 6 weeks. The male falcon, often referred to as the "tiercel", will do most of the hunting for food early on. As the chicks grow, and their food requirements increase, the female joins the male in hunting, and returning food to the nest.
Peregrines migrate to South America in Winter, moving up to 15,000 miles in a year, with Assateague National Seashore, off Maryland and Virginia, being a concentration point for migrating falcons and falcon watchers. This great migration is why Angel, who injured a wing while pursuing a pigeon in Los Angeles, has a thermostatic heat lamp to bask under, during the cold Adirondack Winters. When it's zero outside on a cold Winter night, it's 80 degrees under the heat lamp, so pass Angel a pina colada! Angel was injured while diving on a pigeon in Los Angeles. Jezebel is an older female donated by a falconer in Oregon.
Gary Berke and Steve Hall
Rock and Hawk By Robinson Jeffers
Here is a symbol in which
Many high tragic thoughts
Watch their own eyes.
This gray rock, standing tall
On the headland, where the sea-wind
Lets no tree grow,
Earthquake-proved, and signatured
By ages of storms: on its peak
A falcon has perched.
I think, here is your emblem
To hang in the future sky;
Not the cross, not the hive,
But this; bright power, dark peace;
Fierce consciousness joined with final
Life with calm death; the falcon’s
Realist eyes and act
Married to the massive
Mysticism of stone,
Which failure cannot cast down
Nor success make proud.
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