The peregrine falcon is a speedy aerial hunter. It can reach speeds of up to 70 miles per hour. Scientists have even clocked a Peregrine at 200 miles per hour. During the 1970s Peregrine Falcons were endangered. Concentrated efforts by many people and organizations brought this species back from the brink of extinction in the United States. Their success was so great that by 1999 the Peregrine was no longer considered endangered and was officially removed from the list of endangered species.
On a visit to the Port of Peninsula to do a bit of birding, a bird whizzed through the air like it was superman on a rescue mission! Next a flock of 25 birds flew up in a frenzy from behind one of the buildings, which was the whizzing bird’s exact destination. The frenzied flock was a group of rock pigeons. Close inspection revealed that the Peregrine was flying above the flock getting ready to dive into its midst to try for a tasty snatch! Clearly, the predator falcon was on the hunt for a tasty meal and the prey were on the defense!
Rock pigeons were introduced to North America from Europe. They have thrived here in all kinds of settings and habitats. They are a common bird here that can be seen year round. Peregrine falcons have adapted well to urban environments too, nesting on ledges and buildings in cities and towns of the Pacific Northwest. These city birds feed almost exclusively on rock pigeons (Shewey and Blount, 2018). Perhaps this peregrine falcon was born and raised in Vancouver, Washington or Portland. Peregrines have not been recorded on the Peninsula during the breeding season to date and are not yet known to be a breeding species here. I have seen several peregrines on the beach this fall, but this is the first one I have seen hanging around buildings where the rock pigeons also hang out.
Rock pigeons vary in color from white to orangey brown, variegated colors of green, gray, brown and white to the more common gray, greenish color. Peregrines are easily recognized by their long pointed wings, long tail and dark gray moustache. Adults are dark gray above with a white throat and white breast. In essence, with the moustache it appears to be wearing a helmet.
So, back to the saga of the falcon and the pigeons … the flock of rock pigeons held a very tight formation while the speedy aerialist flew around and in and out of their formation. All were wheeling together as if performing in an air show. This scenario continued on and off for a good half hour. Each taking a rest in between the chases. Soon, the peregrine, tired of his unsuccessful attempts, flew off to seek greener pastures. The rock pigeons, must have heaved a sigh of relief as they settled down once again on the rooftops.
The Peregrine Falcon was a young bird, mainly brown in color with a streaked breast. An inexperienced peregrine against a flock of 25 Rock pigeons was bound to be unsuccessful on its first tries. However, practice makes perfect! Next time!
“Common Birds of the Long Beach Peninsula” by Kalbach and Stauffer is available from the Chinook Observer, Bay Avenue Gallery, Time Enough Books and the LB Peninsula Visitors Center.