Thursday, April 29, 2010


The defining feature of Peregrine Falcon is her speed and flying skills. As the fastest Animal on the planet, She often chases Pigeons clocked at 200 MPH (320 Km/h). With incredible speed, Peregrine Falcon dives through the sky, and catches her prey with deadly accuracy. Striking the Pigeon in mid-air, She then captures the stunned Bird with her feet.

Peregrine Falcon’s primary weapon is her speed. Spying an unwary Bird, Peregrine Falcon goes into her “stoop”. She folds back her tail, and tucks her feet and wings into her body. Once into her dive, Peregrine Falcon’s sharp eyes are protected by her third eyelid. Usually killing on impact, She always knocks Pigeon out with a single blow.

Like many Raptors who hunt Birds, Female Peregrine Falcon is larger that her mate. Because Male Peregrine Falcon is one-third small than She is, He is usually called a “Tiercel” (from French “a tierce”, a term in falconry). Mating for life, Peregrine Falcon places her nest (scrapes) on high inaccessible cliffs. There, Mother Peregrine Falcon spends most of her time raising their Chicks (eyasses).

Snatched from the brink of extinction, Peregrine Falcon has learnt to survive and adapt. Wildlife recovery teams were successful in reintroducing Her back into the wild. Moreover, Peregrine Falcon has expanded her territory into cities, where She nests on the towers of suspension bridges and on the ledges of skyscrapers. For food, She hunts City Pigeons. Today, Peregrine Falcon is as at home in the cities as She is in open country.

Move swiftly to achieve your goal teaches Peregrine Falcon. While hunting, She acts decisively in killing Pigeons. After being decimated by DDT misuse, people acted swiftly to save Her from extinction. Relying on her consummate skills, Peregrine Falcon achieves what She sets out to do. You can also. Just let go of your fear, and “go for it”.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

FALCON FAMILY (Falconidae): Nobility (3)

Falcons and humans have had a long and complex history together. In Ancient Egypt, Horus, the God of Life, was represented by Peregrine Falcon. For the Greeks, Falcons were the messengers of Apollo. In Peru, the Gods of Creation were born from the eggs of falcons. Meanwhile, Crested Caracara became the National Bird of Mexico.

In addition, peoples worldwide hunted with Falcons. Lanner Falcons, large bold Birds, are favoured by people in Arabia and the Middle East. Meanwhile, a tax on Gyrfalcons in Ancient China resulted in the down fall of an emperor by his falcon-flying nobles. In Japan, falconry was considered a noble art, with game preserves reserved for that purpose.

For Europeans, “Book of Saint Albans” (1486) listed who was permitted to hunt with what Falcon. Princes could only hunt using Peregrines, Ladies Merlins, and Knaves Kestrels. Because of Gyrfalcons’ eminence and power among Falcons, only Kings could fly Them.

However in later years, landowners and gamekeepers killed Falcons as pests. Farmers also poisoned Them for preying on their small Animals. Finally, the overuse of DDT destroyed many Falcon eggs. All these factors caused the numbers of Falcons to crash everywhere.

Then people worldwide rallied to save Falcons. Aware of the problems that DDT caused, conservationists worked to regulate its use. They also sought to reintroduce the Falcon populations into areas where They formerly were.

One notable success in the return of Falcons to the wild is the Mauritius Kestrel. In 1974, only six remained in the world. Through the efforts of many people, by 1992, 250 birds were returned to the wild. Conservationists had developed a captive breeding program to save these Birds. In addition, the government of Mauritius increased the size of their reserves for their Kestrel to live in.

Falcons exude authority, quickness, and fierceness: all qualities of nobility. By their very presence, They inspire us all do noble acts. Man and Falcon together is a glorious sight. Each works with the other to achieve great things. In Ancient Egypt, Horus, the Lord of Light, had a body of a man and a head of a falcon. With the help of Falcons, let us aspire to be noble in both our thoughts and deeds.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

FALCON FAMILY (Falconidae): Nobility (2)

The other major grouping is the Polyborinae which comprises of the Caracaras, Forest Falcons, and Laughing Falcon. The Polyborinae are believed to be the direct descendants of the first Falcons. Generally grouped with the Polyborinae, Falconets and Pygmy Falcons are the smallest Birds of Prey who are active during the day.

Named for her shrill call, Laughing Falcon (Herpetotheres cachinnans) is a specialist at catching and eating Snakes. While sitting in a tree, She scans the ground for the elusive Snake. Espying one, Laughing Falcon drops like a stone, and quickly grabs the surprised Snake with her feet.

Living only in the Americas, Forest Falcons are well suited for life in the rainforests. With their short wings, these Birds can twist and turn whilst flying through the trees. Then with their long legs, Forest Falcons seize their prey.

Meanwhile Crested Caracara feeds on sick and dying animals. He also scavenges at garbage dumps for food. Unlike the other Falcons, He has long broad-rounded wings.

Monday, April 26, 2010

FALCON FAMILY (Falconidae): Nobility (1)

Known for their courage and fierceness, Falcons are regarded highly by people. For many centuries, They have been a notable part of human culture. For example, in some religions, these Birds are representatives of the Gods or are their messengers. In addition, falconry is considered to be a noble sport by many.

The Falcon Family is usually divided into two groups (although many scientists disagree on how to classify particular falcons). The Falconiae consists of the “true” Falcons, that are the Gyrfalcon, Hobby, Kestrel, Merlin and Peregrine. These Falcons are usually known by what They hunt. The “Duck Hawk” is the Peregrine, “Pigeon” the Merlin, and “Sparrow” the Kestrel.

The “true” Falcons (Falco) are then roughly divided into four groups according to their size. The first group consists of the Kestrels (except for American Kestrel). With only small adjustments to the trim of their wings, Kestrels can hover whilst keeping their heads still. Because of their constant hovering, Kestrels are also known as “Windhovers” and “Standgales”.

The second grouping consists of the Hobbies, who are best known for their aerobatic flights. Hobbies soar, swoop, then gracefully climb to the sky, and finally dive executing an intricate series of loops. Flying fast, Hobbies will steal from Kestrels while in flight.

The third grouping is Peregrine Falcon and her relatives. These strong fliers feed on mid-sized Birds such as Ducks and Pigeons. Also, in this grouping are the Hierofalcons (the Lanner Falcon, Laggar, and Saker).

The last group consists only of Gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus), considered to be the largest and most majestic of the Falcons. This formidable hunter dominates the Arctic skies. Going long distances, He will fly low over open tundra scanning for Rabbits. From his ledge perch, Gyrfalcon will suddenly swoop down to snatch an unsuspecting Ptarmigan for a tasty meal.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Part predator and part scavenger, Crested Caracara is a member of the Polyborinae subgroup of the Falcon Family. (Native to the Americas, the Polyborinae group also includes the Forest Falcons and Laughing Falcon.) As one of the most eye-catching members of the Falcon Family, Crested Caracara has a distinctive black crest and a featherless red-orange face. In fact, this broad-winged Falcon is the charismatic National Bird of Mexico.

Not particularly a powerful hunter, Crested Caracara usually feeds on sick and wounded Animals. Instead of sharp claws like other Falcons, He has blunt ones, which are well adapted for walking and scratching in the dirt for Insects. Despite his slow flight, Crested Caracara is actually a close relative of the narrow- winged Falcons.

Also, Crested Caracara has another “unfalconlike” trait. He makes a nest instead of laying his eggs on a rocky ledge. However, his nest is an untidy heap of sticks. And, you can usually find Crested Caracara’s nest on the top of a solitary palm tree.

Crested Caracara takes every opportunity to obtain food. He patrols garbage dumps looking for rotting meat. In Brazil, He will fly along trains to eat meat offered on sticks by railway workers. Crested Caracara will even snatch a young Turtle as He searches the lakeshore for a tasty meal.

Although there are many aspects of Crested Caracara’s lifestyle that is decidedly “unfalconlike”, He is still a Falcon. This eye catching Bird urges us to rethink our notions of Falcons, as well as other things we thought we knew. He calls to us to expand our horizons, and to embrace new concepts about old established ideas. Look to Crested Caracara for inventive thinking.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


Often mistaken for an immature Bald Eagle, Osprey is the only raptor with a reversible outer toe. However, this “Fish Hawk” is neither a Hawk nor a Falcon, but instead is classified in her own family of Pandianidae. With her special toe, Osprey is perfectly adapted to capturing and securing her elusive prey-Fish.

As a fish eater, Osprey has one of the widest ranges for Birds, and can be found worldwide. Her opposable toe gives Her wide latitude also. For example, when Osprey is perching on a tree, her three toes remain in front while the fourth one grips the branch from the back. In catching a Fish, her toes line up with two on either side of her prey. Flying low over the lake, Osprey grabs her prey with her feet. Moreover, the spiny soles on her feet help Her to keep a firm grip on the slippery Fish. However if Osprey grabs a particularly large Fish, She stands a chance of drowning since She cannot let go easily.

People around the world respect Osprey and her mythic powers. The Pueblo People of North America named Her, “Water Eagle". Meanwhile other Native Americans regarded Osprey to have good powers since She often warned people of impending danger.

In Europe, Osprey was the “White Eagle” of heraldry, for She caught Fish through hypnosis. Instead of escaping, They would simply turn belly up in surrender. Because of this myth, people believed that killing an Osprey would cause the Mackerel and Herring to leave the nearby seas.

Anywhere Fish live, there you will find Osprey. With her special toe, She is highly adaptable. Wherever She dwells, Osprey employs her consummate skill at fishing. So good is Osprey that She is considered an honorary Eagle.

Osprey shows how having a skill allows you to adapt to life most anywhere. With a skill, you can thrive in any place of your choosing. Just do not become so overconfident that you grab a Fish large enough to drown you. “Choose wisely,” counsels Osprey.
Copyright: Virginia Carper (2010), Animal Teachers, animalteachers @ gmail . com

Thursday, April 15, 2010

RAIL FAMILY: How to be Elusive

Shy and secretive, Rails are rarely seen but often heard. In the marshes, Rails race through the dense vegetation on their strong legs and long toes. With their short wings, stout legs, and compressed bodies, They can easily escape into the grasses. “Thin as a Rail” refers to their supple bodies and abilities to hide in plain sight.

The Rail Family has nearly thirty Sub-groupings. The most notable are Coots, with their bald plates, and Waterhens, who are like Hens in their activities. In addition, Swamphen, Purple Gallinules, and Tahakee comprise the Porphyrio group of Rails.

Tahakee of New Zealand is the largest living member of the Rail Family. Like many Rails found on islands, Tahakee is flightless. Because of the competition of introduced animals on their islands, many Rail species are threatened with extinction. In fact, Tahakee was thought to be extinct several times.

At a local marsh I was visiting, the naturalist could only identify the Rails by their calls but could not find Them. Moreover, none of us could see Rails amongst the reeds. The loud calls of Rails can be heard in the wetlands, but the Birds Themselves are not seen.

Like Foxes, Rails are elusive, choosing when to be noticed and not. Melding back into the reeds with relative ease, Rails can disappear in front of you. However do not become so elusive that you end up extinct by not being noticed.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Grebe Family: Grace

An ancient family of Birds, Grebes were once believed to be the relatives of Loons. Instead, these elegant Birds of the Water are actually related to Flamingoes. Because Loons and Grebes share similar life styles, people thought that the two Bird Families were related.

Often seen ferrying their Chicks on their backs, Grebes spend their entire lives in the water. These stately Birds court, feed, sleep, and raise their Young on the water. Even when threatened, Grebes will dive beneath the surface, with their Offspring clinging to their backs.

Best known for their elaborate courting dances, Grebes perform a long series of ritual moves. They start by swimming up to each other. Breast to breast, the two Birds twist their heads from side to side, lifting their bodies up. Then, the two Grebes beat their feet together and rock their heads. Continuing this ritual, They perform their stately weed dance.

In the 1800s, the feathers of Grebes were extensively used to decorate ladies hats. Because of this, these elegant Birds nearly went extinct. Through the efforts of the Bird Protection Movement, the population of Grebes rebounded. In fact, today many species of Grebes flourish around the world. They continue their beautiful dances for all to watch.

Grebes are endowed with the power of Grace. Their courting dances glorify physical grace. Grebes offer spiritual grace to those who saved them from extinction. They glide stately across still waters, empowering those who glimpse them. Grebes demonstrate the many aspects of grace from the physical to the spiritual. Let us learn about Grace in all its forms from these Birds.