Saturday, November 16, 2013

A 360° View of a Peregrine Falcon With and Without Prey

It was a wintry day in Utah County today--not the best for wildlife photography. It was cold, overcast, and garnished with mixes of light rain and snow. It was not looking good for my planned raptor outing when I left home this morning. However, birds still need to eat so I set out with hopes of discovering new raptors in areas close to home. I drove to a few local fields and didn't see much more than the ubiquitous Red-tailed Hawks and one Prairie Merlin.

On my way home, however, I made a last minute decision to take a side road from Lehi's Main Street over to Pioneer Crossing. The road is called Mill Pond Road because it runs by Mill Pond. The pond is situated between I-15 and the Pioneer Crossing/American Fork Main Street off ramp. I was ecstatic to see an adult Peregrine Falcon (Anatum subspecies) perched on a power pole. It was feasting on what appeared to be the fresh remains of a pigeon or dove. The falcon was content and allowed me to photograph it from multiple vantage points. I remained inside my truck and used it as a mobile blind. The area was under construction so I eventually drove a complete circle around the bird over a fifteen minute period.

The crop was already quite full when I captured this first image. You can see the bulging feathers on the chest. The pinkish wash of the underside of the falcon is characteristic of the Anatum subspecies of Peregrine Falcons. This subspecies remains in Utah year round. Many of these falcons remain around their nesting areas without migrating like many other birds.

Peregrine Falcon With Prey in Lehi, UT
Waterfowl, pigeons, doves, and other birds are staples in the diet of Peregrine Falcons. These falcons can reach speeds close to 200 miles an hour when they stoop to catch prey midair. It would have been interesting to see how this falcon captured its prey prior to taking it to the top of the pole. You can see blood on the bill and talons of the falcon. As the images progress you'll notice both the bill and the talons become free of the remains until there is no sign of the meal other than the enlarged crop.

Peregrine Falcon With Prey in Lehi, UT
Peregrine Falcon With Prey in Lehi, UT
Peregrine Falcon With Prey in Lehi, UT
The falcon actually dropped the prey after I had been watching it for about ten minutes. It fell to the ground where I had a clear view.

Remains Dropped by a Peregrine Falcon in Lehi, UT
The falcon looked like it might drop to the ground for a moment to retrieve the prey, but it chose to stay on its perch and clean up the scraps that remained at the top of the pole.

Peregrine Falcon Looking Down Toward Prey it Dropped in Lehi, UT
Peregrine Falcon Lehi, UT
Peregrine Falcon Lehi, UT
The falcon rubbed its talons to remove some feathers and other remains.

Peregrine Falcon Lehi, UT
Peregrine Falcon Lehi, UT
Peregrine Falcon Lehi, UT
Peregrine Falcon Lehi, UT
The falcon commenced with the finishing touches of the clean up process by picking a few remaining feathers from its talons. This falcon seemed rather meticulous about cleaning up and then fluffing its feathers before it departed from its temporary perch.

Peregrine Falcon Preening After Eating Prey in Lehi, UT
Peregrine Falcon Preening After Eating Prey in Lehi, UT
Peregrine Falcon Preening After Eating Prey in Lehi, UT
Peregrine Falcon Preening After Eating Prey in Lehi, UT
Peregrine Falcon Preening After Eating Prey in Lehi, UT
Peregrine Falcon Preening After Eating Prey in Lehi, UT
Peregrine Falcon in Lehi, UT
Peregrine Falcon in Lehi, UT
Peregrine Falcon in Lehi, UT
Peregrine Falcon With Full Crop in Lehi, UT
Peregrine Falcon With Full Crop in Lehi, UT
Peregrine Falcon in Lehi, UT
Peregrine Falcon in Lehi, UT
Peregrine Falcon in Lehi, UT

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