It’s a busy part of town I live in; we share it with a peregrine falcon. Peregrines are more commonly found in high, lonely parts of the landscape, not in the middle of a 145,000 people with stores, buses, metros, and the noise of a city. But he lives around here, probably because this neighborhood is also home to a large number of pigeons. And peregrines love pigeons–for dinner.
Peregrines are small birds of prey–about 15-21 inches long with a wingspan of about 40 inches. About the size of a big crow. But they come with those big wings–twice the size of their length. The better to catch pigeons with.
The peregrine starts at birth to pump his wings, practicing the stoop–the method of catching prey. They soar high, see lunch on the wing below them, then zero in, dropping at 185 mph. They hit their prey at the wing. They have excellent aim, they use the wing catch so they don’t hurt themselves at impact. 185 mph is too fast to hit a slow moving pigeon’s body; luckily the pigeon won’t remember a thing, the falcon snaps the neck on impact as well. (That’s a peregrine inviting a pigeon to lunch, below.)
When I do see the peregrine, I almost always notice it by the sudden absence of pigeons. They fly in large, noisy, monotonous groups. Swooping, soaring, swooping again. All of a sudden, they scatter into the trees. Almost always, they are a trifle slow on getting the word out.
One morning, there was proof of a peregrine (picture on right). In the middle of my lawn was a pile of pigeon feathers. A pile of fluff, with a distinct pigeon color. Not being fond of pigeons and what they do to my car, the walk, or the bird lice they carry, I’m rooting for the falcon. Hope he hangs around for dinner.
–Quinn McDonald understands it’s tough to be a pigeon. Or a peregrine for that matter. They were once on the endangered species list. Quinn is an artist and a writer. She knows about endangered species. See her work at QuinnCreative.
Photos: Top, right. Peregrine by declan mcCullagh.org
Middle, left. Falconry.ca
Bottom, right. Quinn McDonald