Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The fastest creature on Earth

Taking the dogs for a walk this afternoon, a mourning dove, pursued by a bigger bird, flashed past just above my head in an avian dogfight. They were so fast that I barely registered their presence before both had disappeared into some trees. Given the speed, I assumed the pursuer was a peregrine falcon. That was confirmed seconds later when the falcon pulled up rapidly a few houses away, clearly showing its grey back and the distinctive wing shape of a true falcon. Whether the dove escaped, I couldn't tell, but it was an exciting moment of birding for me. (The only other falcon in S. Florida is the tiny American kestrel.)

Peregrines have been clocked at speeds of  200 mph when they dive on unsuspecting prey, thus making them the fastest creature on the planet. In pursuit of prey, as in this case, they can fly at nearly 70 mph. Doves fly fast, too, which is why both whizzed past at such speed.

(I found this photo on Wikipedia. It comes from a US government agency, the Pennsylvania Game Commission, and is thus copyright free.)


James Missier said...

I guess more and more of these falcons are migrating to the city streets where pigeons are found. Wonder if this true in your place.

Penny McCrea said...

Peregrines spend the winters here. I've only seen one twice before, both in downtown Miami where there is no shortage of pigeons and doves. Do you have them where you are?

Susan said...

I didn't realize we had falcons in Florida. Hmmm! I'm glad to discover another Florida gardener and have included a link to your blog on both my blogs...Central Florida Gardener and Simply Susan!

Penny McCrea said...

Thanks, Susan. And I love your Central Fla blog, which I've added to my list. I need to spend more time on it. Also, I appreciate the garden bargains site, too. Since I'm "in transition," as the unemployment folks tell us to say, I need to save $$$.

As an FYI, it turns out we also have merlins (Falco columbarius)in Fla, although more along the coast than inland. I've never seen one, though. Peregrines can be found just about everywhere except Antartica and , oddly, New Zealand. (Where would I be without Wikipedia!)