Peregrine falcons are fearsome predators. They have this amazing ability to catch their prey in mid-flight thanks to the magnificent, swift dive known as stoop. As the bird spots its prey, it tends to drop down from high above the tree where it usually perches and pursue the prey with stunning speed. Occasionally, these birds of prey may also hunt on foot to prey on rodents, fledgling birds, small mammals and other invertebrates. The eyrie of a peregrine falcon is usually placed on a very high tree while the bird perches close to its nest (eyrie), thereby giving a wider view of the landscape. In winter and fall, the aerial attack of the bird begins from lower heights including fence posts, banks or driftwood. Let us discuss how do peregrine falcons hunt in the wild.
How Do Peregrine Falcons Kill their Prey?
Peregrine falcons employ various modes of pursuit. These modes are described as follows:
Stoop is probably the most readily used method of attacking its prey. In this mode, the bird swoops down on a quarry from high above while catching its prey in air or rarely through walking on land. The falcon may stoop down directly on prey’s head or wing, but quite often, it may strike the quarry as the bird pulls out of the dive shortly before it dashes after the prey, from behind.
Ringing up is a mode of attack in which the quarry at first, goes higher than the bird of prey. As the falcon soars off and flies around the prey when it wings its way above the canopy, it seeks to cause the quarry to become tired through a number of shallow stoops from above, striking the prey instantly during its descend toward the earth. In regions where there is little vegetation, the falcon pursues the quarry when it makes a run for it by soaring high above into the air. The prey seeks to get the better of the falcon through its speed. however, the falcon follows the quarry and try to engage it by keep soaring upwards until it gives up.
Read More: How Fast Does a Peregrine Falcon Fly?
Direct pursuit is employed in case stoop comes to nothing. In this mode, the falcon does tail-chasing and surprises the prey as it flies away leisurely or when fish jumps out of the surface of water.
Contour-hugging is a another form of surprised aerial assault in which the falcon keeps itself hidden under ridges, fencerows or other terrain during low flight. As a result, the quarry cannot sometimes spot the approaching falcon and may fly straight ahead, right in front of the falcon, allowing the hunter to grab the bird quite easily.
Shepherding is a kind of attack in which the falcon seeks to go after the flock of close-flying birds like starlings, grosbeaks or pigeons. But the birds do not disturb the tight formation and seek to steer clear of the falcon through winding movement. The falcon on the other hand, does not dive straight into the formation but keeps harassing the birds by staying at its border. Eventually, one of the birds may get out of the formation due to fear and become an easy prey.
The falcon may occasionally launch an attack on land by hopping or walking and striking the rodents, nestling birds or invertebrates.
White, Clayton M., Nancy J. Clum, Tom J. Cade and W. Grainger Hunt. 2002. Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bna.660