110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Lynn Bowen
posted Dec 2, 2013 - 2:36:36pm
A peregrine falcon is a beautiful bird of prey that, in adulthood, is 16 inches long, has a 41-inch wingspan, and weighs only 1.6 pounds. The female is about 20 percent larger than the male.
This powerful bird with its pointed wings and short tail can fly up to 200 mph! This is faster than any other bird in the world.
Its plumage is dark gray on the upper part of its body, and it has buff feathers with dark barring adorning its underside. Long, sharp talons at the end of its toes and golden-colored feet can grab and tear prey easily.
The peregrine falcon’s hooked, strong beak is yellow with a dark tip. The element of surprise and amazing speed are the special hunting methods it uses to catch and kill its unsuspecting prey. The falcon perches on high until it spots its victim, and then, from above, it drops into a steep, swift dive to seize and crush in midflight the neck vertebrae of medium-sized birds such as ducks, quails and pigeons. Bats, rodents and insects are occasionally on the falcon’s diet, too.
This raptor’s face is handsome, with a dark crown giving it the appearance of a helmet. Those large, piercing dark eyes captured my attention when I saw the female peregrine falcon, whose photo accompanies this column, in a cage. She sat very close to the bars to look at me, perhaps sensing how much I care about all birds. For a couple of minutes, we seemed to silently communicate. For many other spectators, she sat toward the back of the large enclosure. She has a permanent wing injury that prevents her from living in the wild. She is pampered at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science raptor center.
Peregrine falcons mate for life, and usually are loners except at breeding time. Then from March through May, the female lays two to five eggs in protected holes or ledges on high cliffs, in another bird’s unused nest, or on bridges or skyscrapers. Females incubate their eggs for a month, and then both parents are extremely protective of their precious chicks when they hatch. Only one-half of the chicks live beyond one year, due to predators like horned owls, foxes, raccoons and humans.
Peregrine falcons live nearly everywhere in the world except extreme polar regions, very high mountains, and most tropical rain forests. They visit Florida in the fall, when they often feed on migrant shorebirds. The amazing peregrine falcon can live up to 20 years!
— Bowen lives in DeLand. Send email to her at email@example.com.
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