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VOCALS Postcard from the Field: Peregrine Falcon at Sea! - Windows to the Universe

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    Image courtesy of Derek Coffman.

From: Dr. Paquita Zuidema
at sea, November 15, 2008

Peregrine Falcon at Sea!

We thought our boat was alone, 500 km (311 miles) away from land. Then we were treated to the sight of a peregrine falcon landing on an instrument tower with food in its talons. It was a treat enough to see a bird, let alone a falcon. We occasionally see sea gulls or boobies, birds adapted enough to the sea that they can rest on the water if they have to. A falcon is a strong flyer (the word "peregrinus" means "wandering") but I don't think a falcon can rest on water. Then we took a closer look at what the falcon was eating - another bird ! It seemed strange that we only saw 2 birds all day, with one being food to the other. A friend tells me the prey looks like a petrel bird. Petrels are extraordinary birds that spend their entire lives at sea except when they are breeding. They like to follow ships because the ship's movements brings small creatures (phytoplankton) to the surface of the sea and the petrels eat these creatures. Now that I know petrels are out there I sometimes see them above the ship's wake. It appears the ship is beginning to support an ecosystem beyond the humans on board! We hope we see more of the falcon.

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