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Falco peregrinus. Peregrine falcons are not only the fastest bird in the world, reaching speeds of up to 180km per hour (some estimates even have them flying at much greater speeds) but they are also one of the most agile aerial hunters.
With its forward-facing eyes, glare-reducing black face, the ability to rapidly focus on an object while in flight and strong (full colour) binocular vision eight times better than our own, these birds can see their prey from a distance of more than three kilometres. Deep chest (pectoral) muscles power their finely tapered wings giving the peregrine both the aerial speed and manoeuvrability it needs to pursue and overtake other birds in flight. For catching its prey it is equipped with large feet and sharp talons (claws). And if the impact of being hit by a swooping falcon doesn’t kill a bird instantly, it has a sharp, notched upper bill that can quickly sever a bird’s spine.
To watch a peregrine falcon hunting — and catching its prey — is to see the result of millions of years of evolutionary fine-tuning driven by the need for a predator to catch its prey.
Peregrines have a body length of 35–50cm and an 80–105cm wingspan, with the females being slightly larger than the males. They have a distinct, heavyset chest (big pectoral muscles for flight) and broad-based wings with each ending in a pointed tip.
The head and cheeks are covered in a black hood with yellow skin around the eye and on the cere (skin at base of beak covering nostrils). The chin and throat are white or yellowy-cream and the chest and under surface are flecked with black. The back and wings are slate-blue with darker barring (from underneath the wings and tail are tipped in black). The upper legs are covered in barred feathers while the lower legs and feet are yellow.
It flies with a series of shallow wing beats alternating with short glides but will use deeper wing beats when hunting. Peregrines also soar on rising currents of warm air as an energy-efficient way of searching for prey.
Peregrines give a loud scream or “kee-kee-kee-kee” when communicating with their mate.
They are usually seen singly or in pairs (pairs stay together and form a life-long bond).
Similar species: Australian hobby Falco longipennis (smaller than the peregrine falcon with a light reddish-brown under surface. The black around its eyes doesn’t extend far enough to form a hood).
Habitat and distribution
Peregrine falcons live in a wide variety of landscapes and vegetation types and occur over much of the world. They have also adapted well to urban environments. In fact cities have become an important habitat for these birds with skyscrapers mimicking the cliff faces that they often roost and nest on. Now, rather than watching wild birds from rocky outcrops, they roost on high-rise window ledges, eyeing well-fed pigeons as they take off from city parks.
New York is living proof of the importance of cities for peregrine falcons. It is now home to more pairs of peregrine falcon than any city in the world and has about 10 percent of the total eastern USA population.
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- [2007-11-06 12:31]
What a proud bird...
Wonderful work! Thanks for sharing
What a nice picture of this bird of prey. You are so right - they are very special birds. Not only are they very beautiful but they are also very skilled hunters. I have a series of cds (Life of Birds) made by Sir David Attenborough for BBC and here they have measured a speed over 200 km/hour. In that speed they are fully focused on the target. I have heard that if a human did that the eyes would be ripped out by the wind. In one of the sequences the falcon took a pigeon and the head of the pigeon was taken off by the impact.
I like the picture with the falcon scanning the surroundings. Very nice handling of the light and nice sharpness all over the bird. The colours look very nice and natural.
Nice peregine! You got it very close to the camera, it seems. It surprises me that they live in New York!
- [2007-11-06 17:02]
He looks very proud and so should
you be taking this great shot
Excellent detail and color