August 13, 2012

The King of Falcons

By Kevin VanGorden, Program Intern

Of all the different raptors in the world, one has grabbed the attention of the world. The peregrine falcon is one of the most widely distributed bird species in the world. The peregrine can be found on every continent except Antarctica and most major islands.

The peregrine falcon is a raptor whose primary food source is other birds, particularly shorebirds, doves, and pigeons. The peregrine makes use of many different adaptations while hunting. The peregrine has black lines called malar stripes below its eyes that absorb sunlight in order to reduce glare while hunting. Long toes with sharp talons help the peregrine grip its prey and a sharp beak is used to chop it up. Peregrines are incredibly fast flyers, able to reach speeds of 40-60 mph using their narrow triangular wings. They are able to reach speeds of 150-200mph in their hunting stoops by flying high, folding back their wings, and dropping almost straight down to catch their prey.

At one point in history, the sport of falconry was a major form of hunting. No bird was more prized than the peregrine falcon, so much so that only royalty were allowed to have them. This amazing bird has done more than hunt for us, though, without the peregrine falcon our modern aviation would not exist. The peregrine has a special nose cone inside its nostril that slows down air in order to breathe at the high speed this falcon is known for. Jet engines sport the same cone on the front of the engine, a cone that was designed after the falcon’s nose cone.

With all of these amazing adaptations, it is no wonder that this fascinating bird has captured the attention of the world.

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