How exciting that a peregrine falcon was seen at the Dunkirk power plant on March 2.
Ok, here's the dope about this super-fast member of the hawk family. First, as I prefer, we'll cover behavior. When flying, it uses its stiff, strong wings, to produce pretty, shallow wing beats. It soars with them in a flat position, plus its tail in a widely fanned position. The outer feathers almost touch the rear edge of the wing; so much so, that the tail nearly looks like it's in the shape of a diamond. The very ends of the wings look wide and round when it's soaring about, but narrow and pointy when it's gliding. During its soaring thing, it holds its wings level, with its wrists lower than the main body. However, the wingtips are a smidgeon up, except when it's turning really, really, really, fast. Whew! That's something to witness.
Next behavior, molting. (I'd like to molt 10 pounds, so I'm going to pay attention to how they behave.) The bird molts just once a year. (That sounds good, if the process doesn't last too long. Dieting isn't fun.) The bird completely replaces all its outer feathers, commencing in the spring and finishing in the fall.
The peregrine falcon has a very wide range, but it is uncommon. It used to only nest on remote cliff faces, but now it also uses buildings and large bridges, like those in Buffalo.
Photo by Dr. Bill Seleen
Now, birds are complicated. There are three different varieties of the peregrine falcon, but we will just learn about the tundra the palest and local one we might see, if we're lucky. Here's the surprise. The male, of most hawks, is usually darker than the female. Not so with the peregrine falcon. The female is darker than the male. Birders, take note of this difference.
Now, the peregrine falcon does look similar at different stages. For instance, the young juvenile's eyes are darker brown. This is confusing, so I suggest that you check your preferred field guide at this point. However, I will state that it is the only North American falcon, which has wingtips extending to, or nearly to, the tippy-tip of the tail, when it perches on a tree.
Normally, it abides in the cold, cold, cold tundra. (Somebody has to like those temperatures) but something is different this year. A likely cause of this migration is the lack of food up north. In years such as this, it might migrate to a prairie sage, floodplain, tidal flat, open marsh, plowed field or barrier beach. Keep your eyes open and binoculars handy.
Anybody traveling to the Barrier reefs in Australia and New Zealand? Lucky you, if you are. You might see one of these birds. If you do plan to travel that far south to find it, would you please take me?
Let's hope that one of these falcons finds a mate and nests near here. That event would bring birders from all over and that would be excellent for our economy. Yeh!
OK. Let's talk about another raptor spotted recently. At least seven rough-legged hawks were seen in South Dayton, on Dexter-Corners Road (route 322), in Cattaraugus County. They were hunting in their favorite habitat - open fields. Two of the birds were dark morphs, and the others were light. Dark morph means that they are a combination of rufous and dark brown. Their tails have narrow, light-colored bars. The light morphed birds, on the other hand, have dark tails which are striking with white bases. I won't go into more details. You know where to find those.
Behavior, behavior, behavior. These also breed in the Arctic on farms, marshes and generally, open land.
Oops. Ran out my word limit. If you don't want to do the research yourself, you could check my blog at firstname.lastname@example.org.