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.