Monday, September 24, 2007

Let's talk about peregrine falcons

Since my camera is going to be in the camera hospital for 2 or 3 weeks, I am going to have to pull posts
out of my a**, I guess.
I like doing species profiles, so let's start off with my favorite raptor, the Peregrine Falcon:

The peregrine falcon's scientific name is Falco Peregrinus, which means Falcon Wanderer.
There are three recognized subspecies in North America: F.P. Pealei from the coastal islands off Alaska; F.P. Tundrius, which nests above the tree line in the Arctic; and F.P. Anatum, which once ranged over North America from coast to coast. They are the same size and weight of a crow.

In the 1960s, scientists discovered that DDT was interfering with egg shell formation of meat and fish eating birds. Healthy birds were laying eggs so thin they were crushed by the weight of the incubating adult. By 1965, no Peregrine falcons were fledged in the eastern or Central United States. By 1968, the Peregrine population was completely eradicated east of the Mississippi River. In 1972, use of DDT was severely restricted in the United States and worldwide.
Efforts to breed the Peregrine in captivity and reestablish populations depleted during the DDT years were greatly assisted by methods of handling captive falcons developed by falconers. (So if you know a falconer, be sure to give them a hug)
Neat facts...
The Peregrine's awesome speed and power also made it the favorite bird for falconers in the Middle Ages. The female, which is slightly larger and more powerful than the male, was preferred and only she is given the title of “falcon”.
A male Peregrine is referred to as a “tiercel” or "tercel" meaning third.

Baby falcons are called eyasses (pronounced eye-esses). They are covered by white down when they are born, which is replaced by feathers in three to five weeks. Although they have a high mortality rate, Peregrines have been known to live as long as 15 years. They usually begin breeding when they are about two years old.
They double their weight in only six days and at three weeks will be ten times their birth size.

They are nature's fastest fliers: Peregrines have been clocked in horizontal flight at 40 to 55 mph, and diving, or stooping, at speeds of up to 220 miles per hour. They are the fastest moving creature on the planet.

Peregrine falcons feed primarily on birds they take in the air: their prey includes ducks, pheasants, and pigeons (and if we are lucky, starlings and house sparrows). They hit their prey with half-closed feet, basically punching the bird in mid-air, and either retrieve the dead bird in flight or from the ground.

Falconry clubs are alive and well in the U.S. Falconry is an ancient sport, dating back to China before 2000 B.C. Shakespeare was a falconry fan, who brought falconry terms into popular speech, like "hag" or "haggard" which is a term for a mature hawk or falcon.
Ancient Egyptian art depicts falconry, and Horus, an Egyptian god, was a falcon. The "Eye of Horus" is a stylized falcon eye.

The Peregrine Falcon has one of the longest migrations of any North American bird. Tundra-nesting falcons winter in South America, and may move 15,500 miles in a year.

Peregrines are currently listed as endangered in Ohio. All the major cities in the state have a nesting pair.
Young falcons raised from the nest in Columbus have nested in New York, Michigan and Indiana. Other Columbus young have been observed in Alabama, Texas, West Virginia and Canada. The falcon management program is funded by contributions to the Endangered Species and Wildlife Diversity Fund (State Income Tax check-off and Wildlife Conservation License plate).
Stats from the 2006 nesting season: 18 nesting pairs, 60 chicks fledged.

Now, is it any wonder that Lucy (above) is my favorite?


Anonymous said...

Hiya, You should choose a better photo of a peregrine to do it justice. The beak is quite overgrown and in need of coping. Regards, Peter

Susan Gets Native said...

Thanks for visiting. This picture of Lucy was taken in the Spring, and her beak was coped right after this.
Thanks for the concern.

Mary said...

Whaaaat? Lucy is gorgeous - who's to complain about a great photo? (Sorry)

Susan, you are a wonderful educator. I gasped when I read something I didn't realize:

"..and diving, or stooping, at speeds of up to 220 miles per hour."

Incredible. You Go!

Lynne said...

I can see why you love Lucy so much. What an amazing species. Thanks for the info!

Beth in NYC said...

Great post! My co-worker who never paid attention to birds before sharing an office with me pointed out a peregrine flying past our office on the 43rd floor in NYC. Beautiful and I had to give him a hand for his sharp eyes.

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