The Falcon Thief: A Book Review

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It didn’t occur to me till I started reading The Falcon Thief: A True Tale of Adventure, Treachery, and the Hunt for the Perfect Bird that there was also a possible threat to the eagle herself: poachers, who steal raptor eggs and chicks. The Falcon Thief has come along at a good time.

The Beach Falcon

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Long and very narrow – too long and too narrow even for a falcon, all but one: Eleonora’s Falcon ! Somehow, the length of its wings is apparent only in the first second, after that, it does become a falcon-like falcon.). Unlike other falcons, they do not breed in spring, but in late summer, to exploit the abundance of songbirds and pick up those first-time (and last-time) migrants from the sky. Trips falcons Greece

Peregrine Falcon in Broome

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On December 7th an odd looking Peregrine Falcon was observed in Broome at the Sports Ova l. In Australia we often observe Peregrine Falcons and they are the subspecies Falco peregrinus macropus. The Australian Peregrine Falcons have a distinct grey hood around their head and neck area, but this new arrival to Broome had quite a different facial pattern. Peregrine Falcon on the light tower! Peregrine Falcon on the light tower.

Listening to Falcons: The Peregrines of Tom Cade

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That summer of 1938, when he was ten years old, Cade read of two brothers, Frank and John Craighead, who wrote of their experiences with falcons in National Geographic. I knew no falconers. ” Falcons could be taken from the nest just before they were able to fly or caught wild after maturity. Except for the falconer’s jesses and bell, they were to be allowed freedom to pursue life in the wild, life with minimal human contact.

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Wisconsin Falconer Legally Traps Snowy Owl

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” That winter birding lull that plagues listservs and online groups with arguments seems to have reached new levels this winter as people debate not only how close one should get to an owl, but if feeding them ok (cause someone started a website on how to feed snowy owls ) to a direction I didn’t expect when a Wisconsin falconer live trapped a first winter snowy owl last week near Freedom. I haven’t always had such a high opinion of falconers.

What’s In a Name: Eleonora’s Falcon

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So when I mentioned the Eleonora’s Falcon in my last post , you may have assumed that the name was a mother’s day present, or an engagement gift from some impecunious ornithologist who couldn’t afford a ring. In fact, the Eleonora’s Falcon is named after a little-known heroine from a little-known island – a woman of such talent and skill that she richly deserves to be remembered in the form of an eerily clever bird.

Peregrine Falcons at the National Wildlife Refuges

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Peregrine Falcon ( Falco peregrinus ) at Delevan NWR (click on photos for full sized images). I’m sure most of you know that the Peregrine Falcon became an endangered species because of the use of organochlorine pesticides, especially DDT, during the 1950′s, 60′s, and 70′s. Peregrine Falcon at Delevan National Wildlife Refuge. Flying in excess of 200 mph in a stoop, the Peregrine Falcon is considered to be the world’s fastest animal.

Prairie Falcon Attack on a Northern Shoveler

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On 11 November 2012 I was leaving Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake after a fruitless morning of trying to photograph birds in a snowstorm and poor light when a female Prairie Falcon ambushed this Northern Shoveler on the water not far from the causeway on which I was driving. With the duck dead in the water the falcon would alternate between perching on the causeway while watching the duck and occasionally flying over it for an apparent closer look.

The Altruistic Pigeons

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Clearly the flock was being attacked by one of the local Peregrine Falcons , which is a common occurrence but it usually happens so high up in the air that I scarcely get to notice it. Scanning the sky carefully, I was able to spot the main flock of around 35 pigeons, a second small group of 5 birds that had broken away, and eventually the singled-out pigeon that was being pursued by the falcon (seen in the image above). Birds falcons Peregrine Falcon pigeons

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Quinta do Casal Branco: Lobo e Falcão Reserva (2016)

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While the hunting of game with trained birds of prey can be a controversial topic among birders , falconry was a valuable early source of information on birds, and its history, culture, and imagery continue to fascinate bird lovers, as we shall see. A falconer and his bird from the Mosaico de Cavaleiro in Mértola, possibly the oldest depiction of falconry in Iberia. In English, the plays of William Shakespeare abound with the language of the falconer.

2019 45

Kamikaze Pigeons and a War to Extinction

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I am inside the city of Belgrade, checking the theoretically possible Peregrine Falcon site. Yet, not a trace of a falcon. APRIL 12: Second flight of a b h and then she hunts. ” Falcons do hunt pigeons, we all know that, but what is a Kamikaze pigeon? Back to Serbia, three large pigeon-taking predators – Peregrine and Saker Falcons and the Northern Goshawk – have become increasingly hard to find in the last ten years. A Hooded Crow.

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De arte venandi cum avibus: San Martino Siir (2015) – Aglianico del Vulture DOC

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While the hunting of game with trained birds of prey can be a controversial topic among birders , falconry was a valuable early source of information on birds, and its history, culture, and imagery continue to fascinate bird lovers, as we shall see. But in many cases, Frederick found that the claims of these vaunted but unthinking sources stood in contrast with his own experiences as both a falconer and keen observer of birds.

2019 43

Striding Snake-killers

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Watching them hunt is fascinating. A Sectretarybird stomps on a snake in Botswana Adrian Binns A Secretarybird employing its flapping hunting technique Adrian Binns On a recent filming trip to the Makgadikgadi Pans of Botswana we followed two Secretarybirds for several hours. We stayed with the larger bird as it settled down to the serious business of hunting. Birding Botswana eagles falcons raptors secretarybird Worldwide Birding Adventures

2012 65

Falconry – Bloodsport or Alternative Form of Birding?

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Dirt hawking is a form of falconry that involves hunting rabbits and other small game with Harris Hawks (other hawk species also qualify). One of the primary reasons that these hawks make such excellent falconry birds is because they are one of only two raptor species (the other is the Galapagos Hawk ) that hunt cooperatively. But after spending time with experienced falconers in the field I have come to respect and admire the responsible practitioners of this, the sport of kings.

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The Merlin Out Back

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But some days, I also hear the loud calls of a Laughing Falcon. Ranging across a large swath of the northern evergreen zone, they spend their summers hunting small birds from Canada to Scandinavia and on east to the shores of the Bering Sea.

2020 60

Predators Paid to Pester Problematic Pest Birds

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If this Red-tailed Hawk was wearing a T-shirt, it might say, “I’d rather be hunting nuisance birds.” ” Garrulous gulls and stealing starlings, beware: the falcons are coming. (No, No, not those Falcons from Atlanta. The endeavor involves letting hawks and falcons loose whenever flocks of the target bird are present. The benefits to the falconers, according to the article, include generous fees.)

2013 57

Backyard Beneficiaries

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At night, we keep our eyes out for the passage of the neighborhood Barn Owl , oftentimes a Tropical Screech-Owl would hunt insects from a low perch on our almond tree. Sometimes this Merlin ‘s mate comes to check him out, but for most of the northern winter he hunts solo.

Brouwerij Verhaeghe: Duchesse de Bourgogne

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While the hunting of game with trained birds of prey can be a controversial topic among birders , falconry was a valuable early source of information on birds, and its history, culture, and imagery continue to fascinate bird lovers, as we shall see. Early in 1482, Mary of Burgundy, sovereign regnant of the Duchy of Burgundy and consort of Archduke Maximilian I of Austria, embarked on a falconry hunt with her husband and several knights.

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Grifalco: Aglianico del Vulture “Gricos” (2016)

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The Gyrfalcon ( Falco rusticolus ), the largest falcon in the world, is as sought after by falconers as it is by birders – and for many of the same reasons: namely, the rarity with which these imposing raptors of the Arctic visit us residing in more temperate climes. Because of their rarity, hunting prowess, and the great effort and expense expended in procuring them, possession of Gyrfalcons in the Middle Ages was often restricted to royalty in both Europe and the Muslim world.

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Terredora Dipaolo: Aglianico Campania (2016)

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While the hunting of game with trained birds of prey can be a controversial topic among birders , falconry was a valuable early source of information on birds, and its history, culture, and imagery continue to fascinate bird lovers, as we shall see. Likening the pursuit of love – with all its delights and misfortunes – to the equally capricious excitement of the hunt is a metaphor that has undoubtedly existed since humankind first learned to kill its food, long ago in our Stone Age past.

2019 43

Post Apocalyptic Steampunk Birding

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As I neared the shore, I spooked a hunting Striated Heron who in turn spooked a Neotropic Cormorant hunting the shallow water. Peregrine Falcon.

2020 64

Everyday Sunshine: Oh the places we’ll go

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Red-tailed Hawks often hunt through dusk in San Francisco. Peregrine Falcons frequent the sheer rock faces of Tennessee Valley. Carrizo Plain harbors shrikes, meadowlarks, eagles, falcons, etc… oh, and flowers. Looking for birds means we go where the birds are. Every once in a while, when it gets quiet, I look around and marvel at the places birds have dragged me out into. Here are a few. (in

Come to India With Babita Wildlife Tours!

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Once the private hunting preserve of the Maharaja of Bharatpur, this fabulous wetland gave us a list of over ninety species in a very relaxed day on a recent trip! You may have read my recent piece on Birding the Okavango Delta in Botswana here on 10,000 Birds.

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A World on the Wing: The Global Odyssey of Migratory Birds–A Book Review

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Great Frigatebirds engage in “unihemispheric sleep” on hunting trips of six to ten days, never landing, sleeping less than an hour in a 24-hour cycle, often keeping one-half of their brain awake while the other slept. Ask any birder–migration is joy.

Where Are You Birding This Final Weekend of June 2014?

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Keep your eyes to the skies for hunting falcons ! Is it that time already, when a young birder’s fancy turns to, um, non-birds ? Indeed, those long hot stretches between migratory periods can try a bird watcher’s soul as surely as a cold, dark, birdless winter. Fortunately, once you get tired of your local residents, you can expand your interest in nature towards everything else that blooms and bustles in summer.

2014 58

Uganda’s Billion Dollar Bird: The Shoebill

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Of course, we did, soaking in that slate blue beauty long enough to observe a successful hunt and more of its rangy, awkward flight. Not all birds are created equal. The Resplendent Quetzal boasts a tail so long that people travel the world to admire it.

Whitewash the truth

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We also have a richness of falcons. Within 4 kilometres of where I live there are two active aeries, a Gyrfalcon’s and a Peregrine Falcon’s. Against a bright blue sky I watched another Peregrine hunting over the tundra where I’d been just watching Red-throated Loons , Snow Buntings , Lapland Longspurs and Rock Ptarmigan in their mad rush to breed in the short summer. A waterfall on the St George’s Society Cliffs.

2011 57

Aplomado Twitch in Costa Rica

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Although the Aplomado Falcon is on the list, it’s not resident and there are few records, most of which seem to pertain to juveniles that wander into the country at this time of year. In fact, right now, in all likelihood, there probably are a few Aplomados up that way hunting in some far off fields never visited by birders. Happy birders looking at an Aplomado Falcon. Good habitat for a wandering Aplomado Falcon and locally endangered Sedge Wrens.

The Four Goshawks

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Yet, one other hunting attempt in the same area I do remember. The next memorable hunt came from winter 2006/07. … To everyone’s delight, a Saker Falcon soon appeared, offering excellent views as it banked in a long stoop after a hapless distant passerine. Entering some old data at eBird, I found myself puzzled with one record.

2015 72

Wakkerstroom, South Africa: It’s a Lark

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One thing you must do is hire a local guide, as while you can hunt for yourself you’ll see a hell of a lot more with one. And watching this from above was a Lanner Falcon. While the skies and every wire fence and electricity cable were filled with Amur Falcons , it took some skill to finally find a Red-footed Falcon among them. Amur Falcons are ubiquitous.

Which Bird Species Have Gone Extinct in Costa Rica?

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Orange-breasted Falcon : Since there aren’t any specimens of this regal neotropical Falco from Costa Rica, we actually aren’t even sure if it used to live here. However, if we accept that some old reports were this species and not the very similar and easily confused Bat Falcon , it’s pretty likely that a few Orange-breasteds did hunt for Band-tailed Pigeons , parakeets, parrots, and other birds over the canopy of rainforests at the base of the Costa Rican mountains.

Birding from a Hide

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And that is why the hides are where they are, not to admire the scenery (or shoot at it – hunting is prohibited in the reserve and the ban is enforced). The hide overlooking the breeding colony of Red-footed Falcons. Not far from here, the last of the photographic hides with non-reflexive glass was erected six metres above the ground on a private farm, overlooking the breeding colony of Red-footed Falcons. What do you think makes for a good bird hide?

2015 71

Critically Endangered: Sociable Lapwing

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Reasons for their decline include steppes being turned into arable fields – the reason they disappeared from Ukraine and European Russia, on migration they are hunted with guns and falcons, and on their wintering grounds natural habitat is dwindling in the absence of once large herds of wild ungulates (one should try to see these animals as gardeners of a well-kept landscape). Gujarat, December 2010. Target for today: critically endangered Sociable Lapwing ( Vanellus gregarius ).

2014 72

What It’s Like to Be a Bird: A Review of the New Sibley Book

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The essays are arranged in almost AOS taxonomic order, with changes made to lessen confusion for new birders–falcons are grouped with hawks, all water birds come before land birds, etc.

2020 80

Week Fourteen: The Center of Australia, and Sydney Part #1

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Wedge-tailed Eagles roam the skies, along with Brown Falcon, Black Kites , and Nankeen Kestrels. Speaking of Brown Falcons, here are a couple that were perched just outside Ulara. When we were at an amazing rock formation, called the Olgas, or Kata-Tjutas as the locals call them, this Nankeen Kestrel hunted all around me for well over 30 minutes before drifting away in search of better hunting grounds. And the air miles, and highway miles just keep racking up.

2018 41


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Not only were they a common bird, they were a common bird nearshore; indigenous peoples hunted them up and down the coast. North American Peregrine Falcons have also enjoyed an impressive population rebound in recent years. Raptors and other predatory birds have largely rebounded, and there seems to be be no shortage of Brown Pelicans, Peregrine Falcons and Bald Eagles. If you ask this Great Ornithologist, extinction is an extremely depressing issue.

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The Little Big Year – Week 43: Last minute trip to Texas

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Once we were checked in, we headed straight out to begin our hunt. Aplomado Falcon. Things had just started to settle down a bit, now that we had parked the RV in Tucson. We were making some new birding friends, learning the local hotspots etc. Well, that’s just not really our style, so at the very last minute, we rented a high gas mileage car, thru a few things in a cooler, and our birding gear and headed for south Texas.

2018 45

Greenland’s Arctic Tern

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The eider is the most common bird for hunting and eating, it lives near all of Greenland’s coasts and breeds on small islands such as Kitsissunnguit. Due to their great protectiveness against dangers such as gulls, arctic skuas, ravens, falcons, foxes and humans, a lot of other bird species reside just outside the Arctic terns colonies. Greenland is the world’s biggest island taking up more than 2,000,000 km2 of the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans.

2014 59

The great green Caribbean lowlands – Costa Rica

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This morning, they have seen some 10,000 Broad-winged Hawks , mixed up with two dozen Swainson’s Hawks , several Mississippi Kites and one or two King Vultures , Swallow-tailed and Double-toothed Kites , Merlins and Peregrine Falcons. Working with the local jaguar conservancy, he learned that there are 10 or 11 different animals hunting peccaries and other prey at Selva Bananito.

Ferruginous Pygmy-Owls

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The birding was superb with Aplomado Falcons, White-tailed Hawks , a single Zone-tailed Hawk, Peregrine Falcons, migrating Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned Hawks , Harris’s Hawks, White-tailed Kites and good numbers of Crested Caracaras. An Aplomado Falcon by Tom Dunkerton A soaring White-tailed Hawk by Tom Dunkerton A nice group of Harris’s Hawks by Bill Schmoker Not only is this area well-known for limited distribution birds but also sheer numbers.

Owls 49

Of Whiskey Jacks and Water Ouzels

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Peregrine Falcon is certainly more elegant than Duck Hawk. Assorted Galliformes: One of the bird-human interactions that tends to produce a lot of common names is hunting, and names bestowed by hunters will tend to focus on traits important to hunters: how do you find it, where do you find it, and how does it taste? Likewise the Peregrine Falcon is the Duck Hawk as mentioned above, the American Kestrel is the Sparrowhawk, and the Osprey is the Fish Hawk.

2011 59

The Queen

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The maintenance man declared that his father was a falconer, and that he would take her home so he could care for her. She taught them how to hunt, and when they were released in the fall she stayed on her perch, dozing in the sun. I’m not a big fan of bird banding.

2012 69

January Birding – Getting the Year List Going

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Get to my early morning birding destination while it was still dark, sit in the car with the radio on to prevent the inadvertent identification of a run-of-the-mill bird by voice, and wait for a Short-eared Owl to fly past on the hunt. Sooner or later I will borrow a card reader and get those pictures downloaded but in the meantime I think I have some pretty decent shots, like the Peregrine Falcon at Jones Beach that led off this blog post.

2014 53