Pilgrim’s cry

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The Peregrine Falcon is fast, fearless and powerful. From the top of the ledges on the rocky cliffs, the falcon stands still, surveying its surroundings. When it sees its prey – a ground squirrel or a reckless pigeon – the falcon launches into the air. In a matter of seconds, it accelerates from a stop to an unclear speed; it strikes with a paw before the prey has time to react. When a small bird blushes in front of a peregrine falcon, it shifts into high gear by delivering a frontal attack. The hawk advances like an arrow, with great agility, then twists and turns in a zigzag pursuit. He easily outwits even the fastest of small birds.

The hawk is quick and deadly. It hunts in the air, diving or diving on its prey with incredible speed. At nearly 200 miles an hour, the falcon delivers a fatal blow with the hind talons protruding from its closed legs. A pilgrim is a carnivorous bird that uses its strong legs to catch and kill its prey. It has a strong hooked beak to tear flesh. Birds that prey on other birds are called raptors. Birds of prey are called raptors because of their exceptional hunting abilities. They have a pointed beak, sharp talons, and a keen sight.

There are other birds of prey like eagles that do not share a close genetic relationship with hawks. Eagles are generally stronger than hawks and are more built. Falcons, ospreys, vultures and hawks are birds of prey. They are distinguished from each other by body, diet and plumage. They also hunt their prey in different ways. For example, red tailed hawks soar with their wings outstretched, high above the ground until they see prey, then use their powerful talons to squeeze and kill their prey.

Conversely, Osprey flies high above a lake, looking for a fish in the water below. An osprey is a skillful hunter – when it spots a fish in a lake, it hovers and jumps into the water and grabs the fish with its strong talons and spins it.

Each family of raptors has a different behavior, perception, communication, eating habits and ecosystem. Peregrine falcons live wherever they can find food. Some pilgrims have adapted to city life and others prefer forests. Peregrine falcons, on the other hand, thrive in habitats like the smoky mountains near the Tennessee-North Carolina border in the southeastern United States.

Great Smoky National Park is beneficial to the basking ecosystem and serves as its food chain due to the various species of small birds that inhabit the park. The deciduous forest is a refuge for birds of prey. Some peregrine falcons migrate to these forests and live among the trees. In recent years, peregrine falcons have started to nest on the “cliffs” of the city, the ledges on the sides of tall buildings.

Peregrine falcons thrive in large urban cities. Skyscrapers are good for nesting birds. Eggs and chicks are safe from predators. These ledges are perfect for peregrine falcons as a large number of pigeons live in cities. Most songbirds prefer sunflower seeds over safflower and millet. Likewise, peregrine falcons and their chicks love pigeons for their dinner above a ground squirrel! Conversely, some species of hawks reside in cities that feed on the abundance of rats and mice. Birds of prey that have the same family designation have characteristics in common.

A pilgrim interprets external stimuli using smell, sound, sight and touch. For example, peregrine falcons use their keen eyesight to detect their prey; then they take flight and bend over a prey. They hover and hover for long periods of time over great distances with only occasional flapping of the wings. When the sun heats the air near the ground, the hot air rises like an invisible balloon.

As it rises, this hot, rising air becomes a column of donut-shaped air. When the falcon flies through the air column, the bird can soar and soar higher in the sky without flapping its wings. This is the spectacular sight we witness as the birds soar above us. Peregrine falcons have narrow, pointed wings and long, slender tails. They can fly very quickly and usually hunt in open areas. Falcons are specially designed to intercept free flight prey. And ounce for ounce, few birds of prey can match the slow, harsh, beaked, jagged cry of the Peregrine Falcon.

A leaning pilgrim looks more like a missile than a bird. This is the breathtaking view I witnessed on my vacation to New York a few years ago.

I went to New York at the end of September to observe the city. The autumn leaves had begun to take their metamorphism and the city was in full bloom. I decided to stay at a New Jersey resort. One morning, when I finished my last cup of fresh coffee, I retired to the balcony of the large building. I was admiring the view when suddenly I heard a wild, twirling “airk, airk, airk, airk and airk”.

I looked up and at first thought I saw some sort of missile. But I realize that what I was seeing was not a missile but a hawk on a mission. It was coming from the sun. The bird had selected a target and was flying high in the air, diving towards it. But “Who is the prey?” Before I had time to figure this out, the hawk nimbly and swiftly folded its pointed wings, grabbed the pigeon flying in the air. The pilgrim quickly hovered in the sky and disappeared, leaving no sign of evanescence.

I was mesmerized by the sheer elegance of seeing a pilgrim dive like a bow and arrows. The bird’s wings spread like a taut bowstring seeking its target. And when his shot was aligned, the bowstring slackened as the pilgrim folded up his wing and flew away. The pilgrim struck his mark with the arrow, straight and true.

I stood on the balcony stunned beyond anything I had ever seen. I went back to my room and thought, “What a trip.” I thought, “How lucky I have been to have an up-close report of this proud and worthy raptor.” The pilgrim’s cry still echoes in my mind to attest that this is a warlord from heaven.


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