I hated to mark up this picture of Dorothy but today’s anatomy lesson is about a body part that’s a prominent feature on peregrine falcons.
The red arrow is pointing to the cere, a soft fleshy area found at the top of the beak on several kinds of birds including hawks, doves and parrots.
On pigeons, the cere looks like a lump but on raptors it’s often dramatic and changes color as the bird matures. Immature bald eagles and peregrine falcons have gray ceres; the adults have yellow.
If you look closely at Dorothy’s cere, you’ll see two holes for her nostrils or nares. Peregrine falcons have specially adapted nares so they can breathe as they dive to capture prey. While in a stoop, air rushes past their beaks as fast as they are traveling – up to 200 mph. This air pressure on typical nostrils would make it impossible to breathe so peregrines have small cones called tubercles inside their nostrils to break up the wind.
Jet engines have a similar structure called an inlet cone. My thanks go to Dick Rhoton for alerting me to this similarity which he found in the latest issue of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) magazine.
Pretty cool, huh? And a very beautiful feature on peregrines’ faces.
(photo of Dorothy, the adult female peregrine at the University of Pittsburgh, by Pat Szczepanski. Photo altered to illustrate the cere.)