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Peregrine Falcons have occupied a significant place in human culture throughout recorded history and probably before that. In the first post of this series I mentioned that Egyptians worshiped a god with a Peregrine’s head. Peregrines have been central to falconry for as long as that pastime has existed.
Why are these falcons so widely admired? It’s not just for their beauty, although they are beautiful birds.
Peregrines’ grace, speed and power combine to make these falcons among the most exciting of all birds to observe.
Watching a Peregrine in flight is an exhilarating experience. Peregrines are the world’s champion speed demons. No other creature on earth is capable of the speed that a Peregrine Falcon can attain.
Peregrines have relatively narrow wings that taper to a point. When a Peregrine Falcon flies it beats its wings rhythmically, in a distinctive scissors-like pattern. A Peregrine’s wingbeats in flight are far more energetic than those, for example, of a Red-tailed Hawk. In level flight, a Peregrine Falcon is a speedy bird, capable of accelerating to about 40 miles per hour (about 64 kph). That’s impressive, but that isn’t where the Peregrine shows off its capabilities.
It is in a dive that this falcon attains blinding speed. A Peregrine Falcon in a full stoop can reach speeds of well over 200 miles per hour (more than 320 kph). It’s not just astonishingly fast in a dive but it is accurate. One of a Peregrine Falcon’s several hunting tactics is to plummet nearly vertically, intercepting flying prey and smashing into it at top speed, instantly killing it or rendering it senseless.
This flying battering ram is capable of killing prey that is far larger than it is. A two-pound Peregrine Falcon is fully capable of knocking prey as large as a goose out of the sky.
I photographed the bird in these images about 10 days ago. I believe that it is the male of the pair of Peregrines that inhabits our community during the winter months. It is substantially smaller than the big female whose images I featured in the first post of this series. Also, the “sideburn” on the female Peregrine appears to taper to a point whereas this bird’s “sideburn” is a bit more rounded at the bottom. That bulge under this bird’s throat is evidence that he had just eaten when I observed and photographed him. It is an anatomical feature known as a “crop,” a fore stomach in which the bird stores food before digesting it slowly.
In my next post about Peregrine Falcons I’ll discuss how they coexist with us — more or less.
Images made with a Canon R5, Canon RF 800mm f11 lens, M setting (auto ISO), ISOs varied from ISO 1000 to ISO 1250, f11 @ 1/2000.