See These Peregrine Falcons Play Pass the Squirrel in Mid-Air

Written by Sharon Parry
Published: November 29, 2023
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This is just a Mom playing catch with her kids. What makes it a bit different is that the family are peregrine falcons, and the ball is a live squirrel! In this midair game, which is anything but fun for the poor squirrel, the Falcons show off their superb flying and agility skills. One of the young birds has caught the squirrel but cannot keep hold of it in midair. However, all is not lost. Its mother is nearby and grabs the rodent before it hits the ground. Thanks, Mom!

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Where Do Peregrine Falcons Normally Live?

Peregrine falcons, Falco peregrinus, are members of the Falconidae family of birds. They are found worldwide except in the cold, dry Arctic regions and rainforests. They are one of the most widespread terrestrial vertebrates in the world. They migrate long distances between their breeding and winter habitats.

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In the US, they were nearly wiped out from the eastern states by pesticide poisoning. However, considerable effort has been made to help them recover their numbers, and now they are regularly seen in many large cities and coastal areas. You can often spot them nesting on skyscrapers, water towers, and power pylons. While they can be seen all over America, they are more common in coastal regions.

How Do Peregrine Falcons Normally Hunt?

Peregrin Falcon’s weight and wingspan allow this bird to reach high speeds and capture their prey quickly.

©emranashraf/iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

Speed is a big part of the peregrine falcon’s hunting strategy! These guys can fly extremely fast. They average around 34 miles an hour but can reach up to 69 miles an hour when pursuing prey. They have a spectacular hunting stoop where they drop from heights of over half a mile. When doing this, they can reach up to 200 miles an hour as they speed towards their prey.

While passing a squirrel in the air may look cruel, it is a vital part of training for young peregrines. Parents will often drop dead prey somewhere near their offspring. The young peregrine falcons must then pursue the already dead prey in the air. This helps them to work on their speed, agility, and skill.

It’s not that usual to see a peregrine falcon hunting squirrels. They usually feed on birds, including doves, pigeons, and waterfowl. However, they will target mammals, including squirrels and rats. It’s also usual for the falcons to carry their prey to an eating perch, which may even be cached for later use.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Harry Collins Photography/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Dr Sharon Parry is a writer at A-Z animals where her primary focus is on dogs, animal behavior, and research. Sharon holds a PhD from Leeds University, UK which she earned in 1998 and has been working as a science writer for the last 15 years. A resident of Wales, UK, Sharon loves taking care of her spaniel named Dexter and hiking around coastlines and mountains.

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