One of the most intriguing birds is the falcon as they have been used for centuries as hunters and are in myriads of tales and lore from around the world. Extremely intelligent, the falcon is perhaps the most easily trainable bird. Anyone who would like to learn more about these powerful birds of prey might be interested in browsing though the following falcon facts.
Matriarchal Society – Contrary to what you might believe, the female falcon is more powerful and weighs more than the male and as a result rules the roost.
Falco Peregrinus – This is the scientific name for the falcon which quite literally translates to “the falcon wanderer”. In English we refer to them as ‘falcons’ or ‘peregrines’. Falcon names are usually preceded with F. P. for Falcon.
Three North American Sub Species – F. P. Pealei, F. P. Tundrius and F. P. Anatum are found on the coastal Alaskan islands, the Arctic and continental North America respectively.
Eyasses – Baby falcons are covered in white down which gives way to feathers in about three to five weeks. Eyasses are extremely helpless; therefore, one parent will always remain behind to care for the young while the other parent goes out hunting for food. While it is generally the female that stays with the brood, sometimes it is the mail as well.
DDT Almost Caused Extinction – In the 1960’s it was determined that DDT was causing the shells of peregrine eggs to become so soft and thin that they couldn’t withstand the weight of the parents while incubating. As a result this amazing species almost became extinct until the use of DDT was restricted.
Appearance – If adult falcons appear to look fast that is because they really are! They have dark slate blue wings and white faces. Falcons have stripe on the cheek and large, extremely dark eyes. It is their long pointed wings that give them their speed.
Speed – Falcons are the fastest birds on earth which is one of the reasons they are such mighty hunting birds. They have been clocked at speeds over 200 mph and up to as much as 220 mph. This is true when flying, diving and stooping.
Birds of Prey – Falcons are the ultimate birds of prey and their food consists primarily of pheasants, ducks and pigeons. In fact, pigeons soon give up their roost when falcons start nesting on the site. Is there any wonder? Stay and be road kill or give up the nest and live.
Seeing Inside the Egg – A falcon chick is curled in the egg with its head tucked up under a wing. The hatching muscle starts to contract after a 30 day incubation period which causes the head to snap up and the egg tooth cracks the shell from the inside. The resulting hole is called a ‘pip’ and after a couple of days pipping, the falcon chick starts to move around a bit inside, eventually working its way out.
Falconry as a Sport – Falconry is an ancient sport and you can often see falconers in canvases painted during the middle ages. There is evidence that falconry was a sport as far back as 2000 BC and there are ancient Egyptian paintings depicting the sport. In fact, one of the Egyptian gods, Horus, was a Peregrine falcon!
Status Symbol – Many people interested in falcons are amazed to learn that at one time in the history of England falcons were actually a status symbol. The type of falcon owned was indicative of a man’s social standing. Servants owned kestrels, earls had peregrines, kings owned the royal gyrfalcon, yeoman had goshawks and priests had sparrowhawks.
Fledglings – Falcons don’t actually take to flight at about 40 days of age. The way in which the baby bird’s parents teach it to fly is quite a treat to behold. By using a piece of food that is not chewed and regurgitated they ‘bait’ the fledgling and try to coax it to take wing. Many bird watchers spend hours on end watching this amazing sight.
Falcons are one of the most mystical of all birds and thought of as having a sort of psychic connection with their owner/trainer. As the fastest bird known to man, they easily take to hunting prey. Over the centuries many contests were held to see whose bird could catch the prey first while also determining which bird can be called home more quickly. The grace and ease at which they entered into the sport was also taken into consideration when determining the champion. To this day there is something awesome yet elusive about the Peregrine Falcon.