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Friday, 6 November 2015

Peregrine Falcon at Nyirripi

At Nyirripi, there is a resident Peregrine Falcon. Most days it can be seen perched in the communications tower on the south west edge of the Community. From there is starts its run of about 1 km to the Water Treatment Ponds. One morning this week I watched it return to its perch on the tower, I had just seen it fly at the Ponds without success and watched it fly in a wide arc back to the tower. About 10 minutes elapsed, all the while I kept checking to see if it was there. A medium sized group of about 20 Crested Pigeons fluttered down to a patch of ground in between the two ponds. Even though they are noisy birds in flight, I doubt even the Peregrine could hear them from the tower, but, it could obviously see the movement.

Normally at this stage of proceedings I would pick up the camera, hoping to take photos of the Peregrine zooming in and having take-away breakfast. I resisted the urge to pick up the camera and watched. Sure enough, the Peregrine came off its all-seeing perch and started to fly towards the Ponds. Within seconds, it had flown low over the canopy and swooped on one of the hapless pigeons sipping away on the equivalent of a morning coffee. The Peregrine had shocked the pigeon into an incapacitated state on the first swoop, then slowed dramatically and fluttered up, then back down to clutch the pigeon in its talons. All in a few seconds from a kilometre away. Absolutely amazing eyesight and velocity control. The scary thing for all the other birds is that it wasn't even going flat out, despite making a noise a bit like a fighter jet.

On another occasion this week I was again at the Ponds, when I heard the "jet" go past me only a few metres above, just enough to clear the fence, and swoop on a hapless Diamond Dove. The dove had no chance. I saw this action repeated again from a different position on yet another occasion (yes I spent a wee bit of time there) and took photos of the falcon flying to a nearby perch and consuming the poor dove. It is nature, and there are so many doves out there, but the "safety in numbers" didn't quite hold true for that particular dove. I also saw the Peregrine take Zebra Finches, although I wonder how much of a meal one of those could be, maybe that is like a snack, with main meals still required.

In order of speed on a dive, based on the sound, the Peregrine Falcon beats all other falcons, ie the fighter jet. Not far behind would be the Grey Falcon, then the Black Falcon, then the Australian Hobby and finally the Brown Falcon. The Nankeen Kestrel is probably the slowest, but still an efficient hunter. When a Brown Falcon wants to, it can move quite quickly, but the first 4 definitely make a distinctive sound when they are heading full bore towards their target.

Peregrine Falcon


  1. I would love to see a Peregrine hunting, something I have yet to witness. Amazing shots and great write up Richard. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Great photographs Richard. I had a peregrine stoop right over the top of me once and heard that fighter jet sound (Bunya Mountains, Queensland). I thought it was a plane going to crash into me. All the hair on the back of my neck stood up. I looked up and saw it had just caught a Wonga pigeon and saw another five making their escape. I sure can't imagine what sort of meal a Zebra Finch would make. Super observations.

    1. Thanks Russell, forgot about the hair on the back of the neck, but I do seem to get that with lots of birding experiences. I think the Zebs are just a tidbit until they can get a decent feed. My first experience ever of the stoop and the sound I didn't even see it, just heard the jet. It wasn't until my second experience that I could tell it was definitely a Peregrine, very distinct sound.