Because peregrine falcons treat their babies with such tenderness at the nest, we might assume they have the same care and emotions toward their young as we humans do. This is not so. Peregrines are very different. Here’s how:
- Peregrine falcons are solitary, territorial, top predators. Those that migrate live alone more than 8 months of the year, spending only 16-18 weeks with a mate raising a family. Non-migratory peregrines, such as those in Pittsburgh, stay on territory alone or as a mated pair. No other peregrines are allowed in the territory, not even their own offspring.
- Peregrines have no long-lasting “love” for their young. Parents care for their nestlings, then teach them to hunt after they’ve fledged. Four to six weeks later the parents wean the young and will no longer bring them food. At that point the young must fend for themselves and leave the territory forever. If they cannot feed themselves, they die. This is The Way of the Peregrine.
- Wild peregrine falcons regard humans with fear and loathing. We are their enemies. Being captured by a human is not a happy time for a peregrine. As falconers will tell you, peregrines can become accustomed to humans and work with humans but they never love you. They are always wild at heart.
- Peregrine falcons do not have reunions with their relatives so siblings from different years and birds separated by more than one generation do not know they are related. As my friend Karen likes to say, “They don’t have Thanksgiving dinner together.”
This poem, Hawk Roosting by Ted Hughes, is a good description of the solitary nature of birds of prey.
(photo by Kim Steininger)