The falcon eats tonight …

My car was parked a block away owing to the plethora of construction equipment and dumpsters around the house. On my way over, I was looking at the storm clouds coming in and wondering what kind of weather we would have tonight, when I noticed the crows going nuts across the street. It sounded to me like they were mobbing something, and my first thought in these situations is “Great Horned Owl.” So I stood in the gathering breeze and watched in the direction of the crows to figure out what was going on.

Suddenly I spied rapid alate movement among the mid size trees and shrubbery of the vacant suburban lot across the way, but I could see that this was neither raptor nor crow. Then, a few more movements, and I discerned that I was observing a small flock of pigeons moving in perfect unison back and forth among the vegetation in two or three residential yards and the vacant lot. A strong burst of wind slapped me on the back and made me look up, and that is when I saw it.

A falcon … prairie or peregrine I could not tell … was circling rapidly directly over the pigeons. The crows were still noisy, but I could not see where they were. I realized that they were not mobbing anything …. they were just freaking out. They were caw-caw-cawing but from safe hiding places down low. The falcon was incredibly fast on the wing, as it alternated between flapping and soaring. Suddenly the pigeons, which had been carrying out rapid evasive flocking maneuvers among the shrubbery, made a break for it and flew at many tens of miles an hour about a half a block away and took cover. The falcon, clearly observant of this, flew even faster down the block and resumed its circling. Again, the pigeons headed off, and now they were out of my sight, but I knew where they were because the falcon simply repositioned over them. This happened two more times, and I thought … stupid pigeons. They are heading for the wetland, the school yards, the park, and the highway. Easy hunting grounds for the falcon who may have had more trouble picking off a bird in a spatially complex suburban backyard. In the open space of the fields they were heading for ….

… well, the falcon, prairie or peregrine, would eat tonight.

The now silent crows were probably thinking the same thing.


  1. #1 XD
    May 30, 2009

    A falcon? I was expecting a unicorn, at least. maybe even a griffin.

  2. #2 Russell
    May 30, 2009

    I once saw a peregrine falcon sit on the ground, wait for a coot to fly overhead, and then take it from the ground. It flew straight up, near as I could tell, at an amazing rate.

  3. #3 Jim Thomerson
    May 30, 2009

    Have you seen the TV program on carrier pigeons in WWII? They talked about what the pigeons do to foil falcons. There was one particular pigeon who survived a number of falcon attacks and, on recuperation, went back for more.

    I once saw a sparrow hawk take a sparrow. It couldn’t have been done any better.

  4. #4 susanbrown
    May 30, 2009

    Nice story.

    I once saw a peregrine falcon take out a pigeon on UT Austin’s campus — it then took off with it and landed right in front of me — about 10 feet away. I was sitting in my car, and just sat there, breathless. A few moments later, some people walked by and the falcon flew off, dinner on talons.

  5. #5 Antiks
    May 31, 2009

    It’s all about crows. Screw falcons.

  6. #6 CyberLizard
    May 31, 2009

    I don’t see falcons around here, but there are lots of hawks and it’s awesome to see the ospreys hunt the lakes. I once had to slam on my breaks to avoid a snake that fell from the sky. Two seconds later a bald eagle dropped down on the highway and picked the snake back up. Lucky for me my breaks were good. Is it a federal offense to run over a bald eagle?

  7. #7 democommie
    May 31, 2009

    I used to eat lunch with a kestrel. I’d sit in my office and look out at him sitting on a utility pole with his mouse or whatever he had to eat. It wasn’t every day but he did okay.

  8. #8 khan
    May 31, 2009

    Last winter saw a Coopers Hawk come flying low across the patio, grab something small, and keep on going. Have also seen Northern Harriers stomp doves into the ground.

  9. #9 DDeden
    May 31, 2009

    Reading that, I wondered if maybe a cat was on the ground spooking the pigeons or co-hunting.

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    June 1, 2009


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  11. #11 Liz at Yips and Howls
    June 11, 2009

    Riveting description. Pigeons must be a handy food source for urban raptors all over the world.

  12. #12 Liz at Yips and Howls
    June 11, 2009

    Riveting description. Pigeons must be a handy food source for urban raptors all over the world.

  13. #13 Larry Jordan
    June 12, 2009

    Great post on the falcon adventure Greg! Pigeons are a great resource for urban raptors all over the world, especially Peregrine Falcons. I, for one, am glad the Peregrine has made a comeback from the road to extinction due to the DDT used back in the 50s and 60s.

    I still can’t get the song “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” out of my head.