Wednesday, October 5, 2011

[Mostly] Wordless Wednesday 10/5/11

I previously posted a photo of Apache, a gorgeous timber wolf who made an appearance at the Annual Garden of the Gods Pow Wow. I got to visit him again this year (and am looking forward to an even better visit in November at the Rocky Mountain Wildlife Foundation), but there were also birds of prey to interact with. That's where I got a picture of this little fella':

They didn't give his name, but he was specifically bred for the program and is a mix between a peregrine falcon and a prairie falcon. He was very interested in what was going on around him and was hopping all over the place.

I was interested in why they would have cross-bred these two types of falcons and did some brief reading. It turns out when you cross-breed falcons like this, the resulting falcon gets the best traits of each type, something known as "hybrid vigour" or heterosis. The peregrine falcon brings speed and endurance to the pairing, while the prairie falcon appears to bring different hunting habits (such as catching prey in mid-air, rather than knocking it down, like the peregrine falcon does). I couldn't honestly find anything big the prairie falcon brought into it. Apparently, this is a pairing that occurs naturally in the wild at times.

A couple factoids:

*Baby falcons are called eyases. Raise your hand if you've ever heard that term before...anyone?

*Power plants have the best production rates for falcons. As in, a lot of babies are born in power plant stacks. It's like the falcon Caribbean. This is such a well known fact that power plants actually participate in restoring falcons to the wild.

*The females are bigger than the males. Female Power!

*During the Hundred Years' War, if you poached a falcon from the wild, your sentence was to have your eyes poked out. Yikes! Wouldn't it have been more appropriate to have them pecked out?

*Lastly, in medieval England, falcons were status symbols. The type of falcon you were allowed to own was a good indicator of your rank: Kings owned gyrfalcons (the largest type, and sort of the king of falcons), while servants could own kestrels (so I guess we can call them the poor man's falcon). Falcons were important to the clergy, as well, and they were allowed sparrowhawks, basically one step up from a kestrel.

So there's your lesson on falcons for the day! Didn't know this was a biology blog, did ya'?

Have you ever seen a falcon in the wild? Any fun factoids about them? What do you think of when you see a bird of prey?

May you find your Muse.


  1. Well there you go - you learn something new every day! (Found it very interesting, actually :o) )

  2. Beautiful birds, some of the smartest in the animal kingdom. I see these guys out on the highway and int he woods all the time, but it never gets old:)

  3. What a beautiful bird! How interesting that these birds were considered status symbols. Maybe that's why the British adapted that saying for women during the Austin Powers era. Julie

  4. Have read the term eyases - Mercedes Lackey has some interesting fantasy birds that are not quite normal falcons, owls, etc. in her Valdemar books.

    Found it amusing that my son's high school had a falcon as a mascot. As is typical, much more focus on boys' sports than girls, but just as the female falcons are larger, so too their girls' teams progressed farther in intramurals than the boys.

  5. Amanda, I'm glad you found it interesting!

    J.A, he really was!

    Mark, I agree; it never gets old, and never will.

    Becca, he was! And such a little personality! Very talkative.

    Julie, interesting thought (Austin Powers era, LOL).

    Beverly, love that fact! And yay for having heard the term eyases! It is a new one by me, but I love to learn a new word. My high school mascot was a Kadet (because I went to a high school on the Air Force Academy, and that is not misspelled...though it is a fictional bird based on a falcon).

  6. I don't know that I've ever seen a falcon in the wild and don't know much about them. Nice photo though.

    Tossing It Out

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  9. Lee, thanks! I hope you get to see one in the wild.

  10. Great facts - really enjoyed that... I love going to see birds of prey everytime I go to a zoo - they are so amazing, and some so massive... what magnificent birds.

  11. TF, seeing a giant bird is always a little surprising to me at first. Probably because the large birds of prey are usually ones I just see high in the sky, and the birds I see on the ground tend to be much smaller. They're gorgeous, though, no matter the size, and truly amazing.