Peregrine Falcons In Our Neighborhood — Part I

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Over the next several weeks I will be posting periodically about the Peregrine Falcons that spend the winter months in our community in Tucson’s suburbs. I’ve been photographing these magnificent raptors for the past couple of weeks and have amassed quite a few nice images. Honestly, these birds are so stunning that photographing them is addictive, so perhaps, I’m not done.

Peregrine Falcons are the most exciting of all of the raptor species that I see and photograph. They are beautiful, graceful, and have astounding attributes. They are the fastest of all living creatures, with incredible flight skills. These birds live throughout most of the world and their appearance and capabilities have made them legendary in many cultures. For example, in ancient Egyptian religion, the god Horus was depicted as a man with the head of a Peregrine Falcon.

For the past several years a pair of Peregrines has shown up each winter to live and hunt in our neighborhood. We live in a densely populated suburb, complete with housing subdivisions, busy highways, apartment complexes, and several shopping centers. Our neighborhood also has this attribute — hundreds of Mourning Doves.

Peregrines love to hunt and eat doves, so the presence of this prey species serves as a magnet for the falcons. Early in the morning, almost like clockwork, the doves begin to forage. The Peregrines hunt them and seem to make kills almost daily.

I came across this bird a couple of weeks ago as she was polishing off a dove.

Her relative size tells me that she is a female. Female Peregrines are much larger than the males. An adult female may weigh as much as about two pounds (about 900 grams), whereas a male might weigh somewhat more than half that amount — about 1.4 pounds or about 600 grams.

She has the classic appearance of a Peregrine Falcon. Her outer wings and back are gray or steel blue. Her breast is pale, but has a herringbone pattern of dark markings, and a slightly pinkish or peach-colored hue. Her large eye is rimmed in yellow that matches the base of her beak.

In this second image you can see another Peregrine trademark, her relatively short, sharply tapered wings. The image also displays one of the Peregrine’s most famous characteristics — the dark “helmet” on her head, with a “sideburn” extending down each side of her face.

The “sideburn” is clearly visible in this third image.

In the fourth image, the falcon “rouses,” shaking out and rearranging her feathers in preparation for flight. Many birds rouse before flying.

In posts to come I’ll discuss Peregrines’ amazing physical attributes, their unique style of hunting, and how they were pushed to the brink of extinction in this country before conservation efforts promoted a remarkable comeback of these magnificent falcons. I’ll intersperse these posts with my regular diet postings of images of other subjects so as not to be too overwhelming.

Images made with a Canon R5, Canon EF 800mm f11 lens, M setting (auto ISO), ISO 1250, f11 @ 1/2000, +1/3 stop exposure compensation.

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