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Peregrine Falcon - Eating On the Wing

Gregg Thompson was recently out photographing shorebirds in Washington State and caught sight of an unusual behavior. 

© Gregg Thompson

"A juvenile Peregrine Falcon came out of the sun behind our backs with some type of shorebird in its talons. We were excited to see this action but mad that we'd missed seeing the catch, let alone getting a photo of it. The falcon flew off and appeared to land on the ground out of sight.

"After another hour or so, the whole group of shorebirds got up in the air and, this time, didn't come back. The Peregrine was in the air again and did something I hadn't seen before. It started circling over the ponds, rising in the air. At first, I thought it was setting up to strike the flying shorebirds, but that flock had already disappeared. As it continued to circle upward, I noticed that it would periodically bring its head down to its talons — it seemed to be feeding on something. It was already pretty high in the air, but I took my 800mm lens off its tripod and starting shooting, sometimes straight overhead. Fortunately, I got a few shots that were in focus before the falcon became a dot in the sky."

According to Cornell's Birds of North America, the Peregrine Falcon often "carries small prey to a habitual plucking perch for consumption, or to cache site ... [Peregrine Falcons] sometimes eat small prey, especially bats, while flying."

This prey item was undeniably a bird, which makes the behavior even more interesting. Thank you, Gregg, for sharing your photos!

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