Cora, who appears on the cover of my Falcon series, is a peregrine. She’s also a literary symbol of our limbic system, the ancient part of our brain that processes emotions. But for now, let’s concentrate on the falcon aspect.
Falcons, owls, hawks and vultures are all raptors, birds of prey. Peregrines belong to the order “Falconiformes”, hawk like birds, so you can see it’s hard for a neophyte to tell a hawk from a falcon.
In #nature, falcons have few predators, although the Eurasian eagle owl, bubo bubo, occasionally preys on them. Despite having few natural enemies, falcons and hawks are aggressive and basically loners. To defend their territory, they may use their talons for “passing strikes”, as they fly. Raptors also “foot” attackers, kicking out with their feet. As hunters, they must strike without hesitation, or face starvation or injury from their prey. Some hawks, such as Goshawks, may even kill and eat their mate.
Despite their speed, strength, and aggression, fledgling mortality can be as high as 90%. Many raptors die the first year; however, a medium sized raptor can live 10 to 15 years. (Cora, being from the spirit world, is eternal).
Peregrine falcons are known for both speed and endurance. Peregrines that breed in the tundras of Alaska and Canada migrate to the tip of South America for the winter months. That’s a journey of 56 to 72 days, which covers between 7000 and 9400 miles. When they hunt, they soar thousands of feet above their prey, before swooping down at a speed of 200 miles/hr.
Here for your amusement is a short video of my encounter with a hawk at Ireland’s School of Falconry, near Galway. He’s a Parabuteo Unicinctus, commonly known as a Harris Hawk. He bolted for the forest and it took a bit of coaxing to get him back.
Information for this blog post came from “How Fast Can a Falcon Dive“.