Learning to hunt

Adult Peregrine Falcons doing a prey exchange (photo by Chad and Chris Saladin)

After juvenile peregrines have been flying for about a week, they’re ready to learn how to hunt. It may surprise you that the first step in the process is a mid-air food exchange, delivered by their father. In this way they learn to grab a bird in the air with their feet.

I imagine the lecture would sound like this if their father could talk.

“Here’s how it’s done, kids. Your mother and I will demonstrate. Watch carefully.

“Next time I bring home prey I’ll call to your mother and she’ll fly out to meet me. I’ll transfer the prey from my feet to my beak and hold it out for her to grab.

“Your mother will flip upside down and reach for it with her talons. Then I’ll drop it into her grasp.

“Now, kids, we’re going to practice.

“Next time I come in with prey I’m not going to deliver it to your perch. I expect you to come out and get it. I’ll make this a little easier on you by holding it out with my feet. Be careful. This maneuver takes skill.

“If you miss on the exchange your meal is going to fall so you better be ready to chase it down.

“Are you all ready? Good. You’re going to have to work for this meal. No more free lunch.”

Thanks to Chad and Chris Saladin for permission to use their photograph of Angus and Stryker exchanging prey in Toledo, Ohio.

5 thoughts on “Learning to hunt

  1. I just love your blog. I find myself checking it often for updates. I miss the actvity at the nest, but find that I am not the only one who keeps checking it. Is this Dorothy who still continues to stay at the nest?

  2. This afternoon (June 11 at 2:45pm) the father bird was sleeping in the nest box. I’m not sure why the parents come back to the box alone. The young hop in and out. Yesterday the young female hopped in to get food – then she left. The parents are spending more time there than the “kids.”

  3. My husband and I had a picnic in a lovely garden near Mellon Institute today, a picture-perfect, temperature-perfect day. It was his respite from work and my chance to see him after his long morning. We are falcon lovers, and bemoaned not being in the Schenley Garden by the tent where we could use the binoculars I inconveniently left in the car. No matter! We saw the amazing Dorothy-E2 family from a distance, generously and smoothly flying and circling around the Cathedral top. What a sight! Smooth, graceful…adult, adolescent…back and forth, around, up and down. I like to think they love their home base, as they returned to the ledges constantly just as we retun to our front doors. We are fortunate a place has been made for them. We had a perfect lunch that nourished our stomachs and souls.

  4. I heartily agree with those who have said how much they enjoy reading your blog and watching the falcon cam and being involved with the adventures of Dorothy and now E2. Have you ever considered putting down their adventures as a children’s book? The falcons surely have many attributes that many humans could do well to emulate. You have turned me into a true “falconista!” I know that here the falcons are not named when they are banded. However, as a graduate of Chatham and with a family history that included the Carsons of Springdale including Rachel, I am well aware that these falcons are truly part of her legacy as she narrated in the Silent Spring. I have been calling the chicks Rachel, Car(l), and Son(ny)!

  5. You’re right, they don’t have names. In fact, E2 is only a temporary name until we read his bands some day. I suspect he was named when he was banded.
    Sometimes we invent names for our own use – Karen Lang & I have a set of names we won’t reveal – but the names don’t stick.
    I like to think peregrines name themselves as in T.S.Eliot’s Naming of Cats from Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.

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