Falcon, The world’s fastest bird

falcon

Falcons are birds of prey belonging to the genus Falco. The word Shaheen is an urdu word originally derived from Persian word Falcon, which means brave or king-like.

Nature has maintained a perfect food web in an ecosystem where each and every living being is accurately balanced under a natural automated system. Insects eat other insects, and birds feed on rats and lizards. To maintain controlled aerial population, Falcons were created.

Distribution and habitat:

They are found on every continent except Antarctica, and inhabit all kinds of areas, such as grasslands, oceans, dry forests,  mountaineous peaks and areas where temperature is moderate.

They form nests on usually at an elevation of 1200 meters. These nests on high elevations protect them from predators. They have been seen roosting in the towers of tall buildings, on top of the highest bridges, in cities where pigeons are abundant.

Some of its species are migratory while others are residental in nature. Bahri Falcons also migrate from colder regions toward Pakistan.

Physical appearnece:

a. Special aerial adaptations:

✓This bird is designed to hunt in the air, its wings are pointed while beak is curved backward just like a fast fighter jet. The wings and streamlined body help to reduce air resistance.

✓They have keeled sternum which is an important avian character and provides equilibruim and is site of attachment for muscles. These muscles help the falcon to hunt with speed.

✓In the opening of the nostril, there are small cone like structures known as baffles. These baffles are used to deflect shockwaves of air away and also control amount of air entering in nostrils, thats why falcons can breath safely during flight.

✓ Besides baffles, they also have nictating membrane which protects delicate eyes during flight.

✓ Falcon is the fastest bird in the world and can fly upto speed of 386 kilometer per hour during vertical descent as comapre to Cheetah with running speed of 185 km/hr and Marlin with swimming speed of 132km/hr.

They usually fly high above the clouds at speed of 60 to 100 km/h but while hunting the speed may reach upto 300-400km/hr. The falcon feet are called Talons which are  closed during hunting and are used to knock the prey out of the sky.

✓Falcon’s beak has a unique teeth known as  tomial tooth. It is a triangular structure present on upper mandible. It is used by the falcon to quickly sever its prey’s spinal, and killing it quickly.Falcons are easily distinguished from other birds due to tomial teeth and pointed wings.

✓Falcons have excellent sense of vision 8 times higher than humans.

b. Size:

It is also about the same size as a crow.

Feeding habits:

Falcon loves to prey on pigeons, ducks, grebes, gulls, shore birds and sometimes feeds on fishes and rodents too.

Mode of reproduction:

falcons usually mature at the age of two years. They usually form monogamous pairs with female during one breeding season. The female lays 3-4 eggs and incubates them for 33 days. Out of these four eggs, usually two eyass (chicks) survie.

 The female cares for young while male hunts for its family.

 Predators of falcon:

 Falcon has no natural predators except humans. However, they are not completely free from predators. They may be killed by other large birds of prey, like owls and eagles etc. The owl usually hunts on their eyass at night as falcons are diurnal so cannot feel its presence and loose their chicks. Chicks are also killed by snakes many times.

Sexual diamorphism:

The male and female are identified by their body size. The female is usually larger than male. Male and female are usually monogamous but if one partner dies, then remaining one finds new mate.

Falconry:

Since ancient times, this animal has been used as a hunting animal in Asian countries and Europe.  After the invention of the gun, Europeans stopped hunting using it, but Asian countries, especially Arabs, still use it as a hunter but with little innovation i.e. along with falcon, weapons are also used.

This method of hunting using trained falcons and weapons is called Falconry.

Falconers keep the falcon’s eyes tied and covered because falcons have sensitive and keen eyes and quickly react to even little movements in surroundings. 

So their eyes are kept covered in order to keep them calm and relaxed otherwise they may fly away quickly.

A special type of cowhide glove called Gauntlet is also used by handlers in order to turn the arm into a suitable perching surface for the bird. These gloves also protect handlers from the sharp Talons of falcons. .

 Falcon is in danger:

 Due to poaching and illegal hunting, falcons are in danger. Most of its species are in danger of extinction.

The female has more demand than male due to its size and hunting style. One female is sold for $2500/$5000 to Arabian princes, thats why Bahri falcon is near to extinction in Pakistan.

While hunting, these birds may also strike to cars and trucks and lose their lives. In America there are special care centres for injured falcons where they are  kept and treated with special care.

The first year of their life is very sensitive and crucial for their survival. Their average life span is about 13 years.

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