A Rose-ringed Parakeet on the menu in Uccle, a Turtle Dove at the cathedral

The peregrine falcon is the best aerial hunter in the world. Its ability to capture prey in midflight is unparalleled.

The blog of April 22 describes his techniques of capture at full speed.

Being so adapted to capture prey while high speed-diving at 400 km/h is unique. But in addition, the peregrines have the ability to capture a great (very) diversity of bird species. This is very remarkable, because, in general, raptors are relatively specialized in prey.

On the menu of the peregrines, you can find a blue tit as well as a … white-fronted goose. The weight of the tit is around 10 g while that of the goose can reach 3 kg! Of course, the hunting technique will be different for one or the other.

The tit will be seized in midflight and carried in the peregrine’s claws to a perch where it will be tasted. Or else will she be taken directly to the nest to feed the falcon chicks. It is very likely that such small prey is primarily captured by male peregrines whose weight is around 650 g.

On the other hand, there is no question of a peregrine falcon seizing a 3 kg goose in midflight and carrying it quietly to its nest! The technique will consist of falling down and literally hitting the goose in full flight. The shock will probably stun the goose, at best break its spine. As a result, she will fall to the ground where the peregrine can finish her off by cutting her neck. This type of capture is reserved for the female peregrine whose weight is between 1 kg and 1.1 kg. Its strike force is terrible! But the technique is not always successful. It often happens that a large prey is only unbalanced by the shock and therefore manages to continue its way. In this case, the peregrine will often attempt a second dive. Probably because he knows that the bird, he has already tried to capture, will have a hard time escaping him a second time. Nothing gained however, because the falcon will have to provide a considerable effort to rise as quickly as possible to tens of meters above the coveted prey to gain enough speed and therefore enough force to hit it successfully this time!

No white-fronted geese on the menu of the peregrines of Brussels, but blue tits and... dozens of other species. Sixty-six different species have been identified for the peregrine falcons at the cathedral alone! The complete list can be found here (link to Prey - Falcons for everyone 2023).

The videos in the appendix show two very different prey. The first dates from yesterday and takes place at the Saint Job church. It is 7:37 a.m. and the female brings her three falcons a very freshly captured rose-ringed parakeet*. She did not even bother to pluck it before bringing it to the nest.

The second capture dates from the day before yesterday. It is the fact of the peregrine pair of the cathedral. This is a European turtle dove. This turtle dove is a great migrator which returns from Africa at this time. The species is nowadays very rare in Belgium and in all regions of Western Europe. The fault of a terribly intensive agriculture which no longer leaves areas where grasses carrying very nutritious seeds will be able to grow “freely”. And this is an incredible paradox of the situation of nature conservation today. The peregrine falcon was on the brink of extinction 50 years ago. He was saved because the pesticides which, at that time, poisoned our environment, were banned. The turtle dove was abundant 50 years ago. It is in very bad shape today because agriculture is no longer in balance with our environment. Will we be able to stop its decline? Not sure. Does it risk disappearing from large regions, including Belgium? Yes. The male peregrine of the cathedral who conscientiously plucks a turtle dove he has just captured obviously does not realize this paradox. He ensures his own descendants. Because we gave him the chance to survive.

Blog 07052023 video 1. A rose-ringed parakeet on the menu at Uccle Saint Job

Blog 07052023 video 2. A turtle dove on the menu at the cathedral

* More than 10,000 rose-ringed parakeets are listed in Brussels. They were introduced there in the early 1970s to brighten up the parks! Another moment in time!