A specialized predator with a varied menu, very varied!

One of the peculiarities of the Peregrine Falcon is to be a "super predator", in other words a predator at the top of the food chain. Does that mean he doesn't know any predators himself? No. Another species of bird is able to predate Peregrine Falcons: the Eagle Owl.

The Peregrine is both a specialized and at the same time an eclectic predator.

Specialized, because it captures and therefore only feeds on birds captured in flight (a few exceptions confirm the rule). Among the falcon family, he is, par excellence, THE aerial hunter. It is the effect, generation after generation, century after century, millennium after millennium, of natural selection.

Eclectic, because Peregrines do not capture, nor like, one species of prey more than another. The limiting factor is the falcon's physical ability to kill and transport its prey. In Europe, in Belgium, Peregrines have been observed capturing greater white-fronted geese as well as blue tits. The average weight of the first is around 2.5 kg while for the second, we are talking about 10 g! An incredible difference! This ecological characteristic is remarkable because it means that Peregrines have "learned" that they could not be satisfied with a single species or family of species because obviously such specialization would not allow them to survive. They are therefore capable, intellectually and technically speaking, of making the choice and of implementing hunting techniques which will yield a very different loot! Observations made at the Cathedral of Saints and Michael since the first nesting observed on the building in 2004, have identified 65 different bird species on the Peregrine Falcons menu. Sixty-five species! And it is more than likely that there will be more as the Peregrine regularly pluck their prey before bringing it to their falcons. When the prey is large, it is often possible to identify it by observing the beak, legs or feathers that have not been pulled out. For small passerines, it is exceptional to be able to identify the species when the falcon has been conscientious in its "plucking" operation ...

The complete list of these 65 species can be found here (http://www.falconsforeveryone.be/prey?lang=en). We can see that the shorebird family (= sandpipers, snipes etc, video 1) is the best represented with 19 species. How to explain the capture of a ruddy turnstone or a bar-tailed godwit in Brussels? Did the Peregrine go on an excursion on the mudflats of the Zwin nature reserve (https://www.zwin.be/en) in order to upgrade his menu? No, obviously! In fact, these shorebirds are highly migratory birds that nest from Scandinavia to Siberia and some winter as far as South Africa. The first half of May is the pre-nuptial migration period for most of these species. And, you understand, the Peregrines capture these migratory birds as they cross the sky over Brussels. Among the smaller species, the Peregrines settled in Brussels capture many black-headed warblers, or even wagtails, black swifts. Most of these species are also captured while migrating. Among the residents, the Peregrines capture domestic pigeons (video 2), sparrows, starlings, thrushes and ... rose-ringed parakeets. Brussels has a large population of this species that has escaped captivity (native to Asia and Africa). We are indeed talking about some 10,000 parakeets established in Brussels and its surroundings (video 3 & 4).

The Peregrine, a very special bird? Without a doubt !


Video 1. The male Peregrine of the ULB brings a common greenshank to his brood.

Video 2. Domestic pigeons are regularly captured.

Video 3. The male Peregrine from the cathedral of Saints Michael and Gudula comes to pluck a rose-ringed parakeet on a gargoyle.

Video 4. View of a roosting spot with more than 3000  rose-ringed parakeets in Brussels (DV video).