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Peregrine Falcons: Lords of the Sky

The peregrine falcon’s name means ‘pilgrim’ or ‘wanderer’. This is quite an apt title for this bird, as it’s commonly found all over the globe.  It’s quite a common bird of prey, though its beauty and characteristic make it worth learning about. One of the secrets of its survival is that it’s highly adaptable and can be found in several kinds of habitats.

This type of falcon belongs in the category of hunting birds, the same group where we put eagles and hawks. However, it does have some very unique habits and rituals. It might be an interesting exercise to look at the peregrine falcon from a first-person perspective, so that’s what we’ll do! Here is a discussion of the peregrine falcon’s life cycle from its own point of view:

First week

Week 1, Day 1 – Today is the first day of my life. I behold my world for the first time ever as I slowly emerge from my shell. My two siblings, a brother and sister, have not yet hatched. My mother, the noble peregrine falcon, fed me my first meal today. This was a collection of worms and bugs; a meal hardly fit for the future ruler of the sky, but, it’s palatable.

Week 1, Day 2 – My brother and sister hatched today. They are tiny, squirming, bald little things, but I must assume that I do not look any better.

Week 1, Day 3 – I saw my father for the first time. I watched him as he was swooping down on a hare in the field far below. He killed it with relish as I looked on from the nest. We dined well that day, my siblings and I.

Week 1, Day 5 – Today I sprouted my first down. It is incredibly soft, and it serves as a sort of blanket.

The Threat from Humans

Week 2, Day 8 – A predator is at large, and might possibly threaten our safety. Apparently, it is something called a “human”. It’s a strange name, but all of us can sense the danger it brings.

Week 2, Day 9 – The humans are here, hunting with a strange method. Instead of swooping down on their prey, they stand a fair distance away and simply raise a peculiar device, of whose name and origins I know not. Then, the device makes a deafening ‘bang’ noise and their prey, typically a fallow deer, falls to the ground stone dead.

Becoming Competent Fliers

Week 3, Day 15 – My father fought a coyote today. It was a fierce battle, but of course, my father won. That is as it should be, for nothing can challenge the lords of the air.

My father can kill birds as large as the Sandhill Crane, or as small as the hummingbirds. Even a swift cannot elude him when he’s decided to bring it home for our lunch. Our meals may consist of gulls, duck, shorebirds, songbird, and pigeon along with several other species. If it’s night-time, we also enjoy the occasional bat. Rodents and fish make for a welcome change.

Week 4, Day 22 – My siblings and I sprouted our first flight feathers today. Oh, what a joyous day it is! Soon, we will know the joy and wonder of flight.

Week 4, Day 27 – Today is the day; the day that we begin to fly. I took my first tentative steps outside of the nest. These steps are the first I have ever taken away from the safety and comfort of the nest. As I spread my wings, I can feel the updrafts and the downdrafts pulling at me. I push off. Then I plummet. I desperately flap my wings and manage to catch an updraft of air. I fly, albeit awkwardly, around the nest, relishing the freedom that flight provides.

Week 5, Day 33 – My brother, sister, and I are now competent fliers. We will soon be ready to leave the nest and find mates.

Week 6, Day 37 – Today, one adventure ends and a new one begins. My siblings and I will leave the nest to start our own lives. As we take off, I feel a sense of loneliness. I finally realize that this is it; I am officially on my own. Out here in the wild it is “kill or be killed,” and I must keep my guard up at all times.

Week 6, Day 38 – I have found a mate. She is a large falcon with razor-sharp claws. She is perfect. We begin the mating flight, a dizzying swirl of wings, beaks, and claws.

Week 7, Day 42 – My mate and I have finished our nest. We located it on an overhang on a cliff. This is a very defensible position and will make it hard for any predator to reach.

If I was in a city, I would have chosen a similarly high place such as a skyscraper, for my nest. We falcons aren’t too picky about where we live, but we do want to keep our nesting places high up and out of reach. Our nests can be found at height of up to 12,000 feet. We’re also found along coastlines and river, on mountains, lake edges, mudflats, and barrier islands.

I actually built a few possible nests on various ledges, and my mate chose from this selection. It wasn’t hard to do; my nest building was little more than a scraping in order to make a depression in the ground. This depression is a couple of inches deep and has a diameter of about 9 inches.

Week 8, Day 45– I have grown to love flying. Starting from a very high spot, I can spy my prey a long way down. From there, I take off, soaring high and flapping my wings slowly. When I’m in pursuit of my prey, I can reach a speed of 67 mph. Once I catch it, I immediately bite through its neck for an instant, merciful killing.

I can also pick out certain birds to prey upon out of large flocks, or conduct a level pursuit to bring food to my family. Occasionally, I’m not averse to hunting on the ground. Of course, I also have to watch out for Gyrfalcons, the great horned owl, eagles, and even other peregrines in case they decide to prey upon me.

Week 9, Day 62 – My mate has laid her first eggs. They are small, white, and incredibly fragile. They will hatch soon, so we must begin to collect food immediately.

Week 10, Day 70 – A lynx has entered the territory. The lynx is among our most dangerous predator, as it can even climb the cliffs to reach our home. It will go to great lengths to kill and eat its prey. My mate and I must be more careful than ever now.

Week 12, Day 81 – The eggs have hatched today, and they are already eating voraciously. I am glad that we had the foresight to collect a lot of food.

Week 13, Day 89 – The young falcons are well on their way to flying. Well, that is, all but one. One young falcon fell out of the nest. The fifty-foot drop must have killed her. Even if she somehow survived, she would have landed in the water and most likely drowned.

Week 14, Day 94 – Our falcon offspring have taken flight. They will leave the nest soon to start families of their own.

Week 14, Day 98 – The falcons have officially left the nest. They will immediately go and look for mates. They will soon become lords of the air, just as I have. Hopefully, they will have enough families of their own to stabilize our population and keep us off the endangered species list. With the pesticide bans along with many other efforts, we managed to get off that list in 1999.

 

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