Peregrine Falcons in the Foothills

by Dan Weisz

Peregrine Falcons are renowned for their speed and, during stoops, can reach over 240 miles per hour, making them the fastest animal on the planet. Their athleticism and eagerness to hunt combined with their willingness to be trained has led to their being used by mankind in falconry for over 3000 years. Their reputation for aggression and martial prowess has been recognized throughout many cultures as they are present on six continents and have been the birds of royalty for centuries.

However, their strong skills are occasionally compromised by other “bird” behaviors. For example, the bird below was sitting on the tallest telephone pole on the highest hill along Skyline Drive in Tucson (just west of Columbus).  You might think the bird might want to perch on either of the poles to the side of him for a slightly higher and more stable perch.  Nope.  Perhaps he would want to perch on the flat and even  crossbeam.  Nope.  Instead, he has decided to perch on the rounded, smooth insulator in the middle of the crossbeam.  This looks like it might work until…….

He looks very regal and powerful on that perch.  But after searching for food towards the west for some time and finding nothing, he decides to turn 180 degrees around and survey the desert to his east.

and finds that a slippery, rounded insulator may not be the best perch to rotate on.  The "banana peel" results below:

and another correction grabbing on to the wire….

before finding his balance and acting as if nothing had happened.  I imagine that the doves and quail below are chuckling to themselves, if only for a short moment.  Once again, the Peregrine looks very regal.  But we all know what just happened!  And note that the bird’s crop is not bulging.  (Look just below its throat at the tan feathers)  It has not eaten yet this morning, so hunting is very much on its mind.

Notice those very long toes?  Falcons will use those to wrap around their prey before flying off to a ‘safe’ place to consume them.

Later on, the falcon perched on one foot.  This is done for the same reason you put your hands in your pockets on a cool day- to keep them warmer.  Here he removes his foot slowly.

and continues preening to clean his feathers and keep them in the best condition for flight.

This great BBC series is finally airing a show that features the Harris’s Hawks from the Raptor Free Flight demos at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum.  They filmed a year and a half ago.  This show is often aired on your local PBS station as a Planet Earth series.