Sunday, September 8, 2013

Peregrine Falcon / seagull

Roughly calculated, your chance of finding a Peregrine Falcon in the wild 30-40 years ago was fairly close to zero.  They were being wiped out by the widespread use of the pesticide, DDT.  Fortunately, after DDT was banned in 1970, Peregrine Falcons recovered significantly enough to prompt their removal from the Endangered Species List in 1999. 

Now you only need to search out a falcon friendly electric utility, a bird-friendly skyscraper or a cliff nearby to find one. You’ll need patience, some degree of luck and, of course, binoculars.

WE ENERGIES is one of the many sites offering protection, nest boxes and a stage for the Peregrine Falcons' resurgence.  The tall exhaust stacks of a power generating stations is this Peregrine Falcon's stage.

I stopped at the Port Washington Generating Station, Port Washington, Wisconsin to check on the resident pair of Peregrine Falcons.  With information from  WE ENERGIES Peregrine Falcon 2012 Nesting Season Report and the leg band information, this should be an adult female, Indy Foorna.  Peregrines mate for life and  could live for 15 years. She and a male raised four young chicks successfully.

I found Indy Froona resting on the south side of the north stack balancing on one foot while inspecting the other.

It was breezy along Lake Michigan's shoreline, so when a wind came up and ruffled her feathers, she left.

I watched her circle the stack and disappear.

NOTE: Depictions of predation follow.

Figuring I had all the pictures of her I would get today, I started to walk back to my car. Surprisingly, she returned carrying a heavy load.  Coming in low and slow she struggled to make a landing onto an electrical box...landing with a plop and with very little margin for error.

Wings drooping and appearing exhausted, she rested for a long time before she was ready to inspect her catch.  

NOTE: Click any picture to enlarge.

The prey appeared to be a young seagull.  Peregrine Falcons attack from above in steep dives (stoops). Some dives have been recorded at well over 200 miles per hour.  With legs and talons extended, the impact kills or stuns a bird. The prey is clutched in long sharp talons or retrieved as it falls to earth.

A strong breeze off Lake Michigan made the tedious and distasteful process of feather plucking tolerable.  With every mouthful gathered, she rose up to let the wind disperse the feathers behind her.  

Remaining upright for seconds longer than necessary to clear the feathers from her mouth, she made quick scans of her surrounds, as Peregrine Falcons are not without enemies themselves. Even on this high and isolated perch...a hundred feet up…she, too, was vulnerable to an attack from larger birds. 

A Bald Eagle or Great Horned Owl would take advantage of both the inattentive peregrine and the dead seagull if given the opportunity...she remained alert.

In bite-sized pieces or parts swallowed whole, she took an hour to eat. 

Wiping her face clean wherever she pleased, she finished dining for today.  Tomorrow it may be another gull, a songbird, thrush, waxwing or even a bat.  She would even steal a fish or rodent from another raptor if the opportunity presented…everything’s fair.

The Peregrine Falcon was saved in North American by the actions of inspired people who recognized what we were about to lose, acted responsibly and saved this beautiful bird for us today. 


credit: Cornell Lab of Ornithology 
credit: We Energies Peregrine Falcon 2012 Nesting Season Report