peregrine

A peregrine falcon on the beach? Stranger things have happened, but this is certainly an unusual occurrence.

As I was heading home after my three-mile morning walk, I stopped by Englewood Beach to see what birds might be there. To my complete shock and surprise, there were no birds on the beach — except one. Since there have generally been 50 to 100 seabirds on the beach, I could only wonder what the explanation for this absence might be.

I walked as rapidly as I could in the soft sand towards the distant single bird on the beach. As I got nearer I could see that it was acting like a raptor that was feeding — a strange sight indeed. Once I was close enough to make an identification, I realized it was an adult peregrine falcon. This is a rarely seen predator of shorebirds which certainly is never seen on a public beach, so I was astounded.

The peregrine had killed an adult laughing gull, a bird about half its body weight. Clearly the other birds on the beach observed this and all of them left!

The falcon calmly ate its large meal to the last morsel, all while people strolled past looking for shark’s teeth. It must have been quite hungry. When it finished, it had some difficulty getting airborne when it was finished with its huge meal. You may be able to see the enlarged crop in the throat which holds the recently eaten food.

You never know what you may see when you go for a walk, so it’s good that I had my ancient but trusty Canon point-and-shoot camera by my side. I am happy to see that this magnificent bird was willing to trust humans enough to make a kill and eat it right on a public beach.

Bill Dunson is Professor Emeritus of Pennsylvania State University, thanks to a career spent entirely at that institution, teaching and doing research. Always curious about nature, Bill has dedicated his life to learning and sharing his knowledge with others. Contact him at wdunson@comcast.net.

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