I was pleasantly surprised yesterday evening, I was just starting to think about packing up, when the tiercel returned from a successful hunting trip, he had predated a feral pigeon. Although he is capable of tackling a bird the size of a pigeon, this is first time I’ve seen him return with a one, he tends to go for smaller birds such as starlings and thrushes. Usually leaving the pigeons for the falcon to bring in, who is heavier and overall more powerful bird and very fond of pigeons. He didn’t have much time to enjoy his prize as the falcon was straight over to the plucking post to claim the prey for herself.
The tiercel had already removed the head and most of the wings, to make the prey easier to carry, as a feral pigeon can weigh over half the weight of a male peregrine, depending on the size of the bird, and this was one big bird. The tiercel had also taken away the breast feathers and started eating some of the breast meat; I hope he had eaten what he needed as the falcon was certainly in no mood for sharing. She then spend the next half an hour devouring the prey, meat, bones and all, she even ate the feet!
Eating of the feet and legs is not usual in peregrines and they are often seen feeding them to their young. Peregrines, unlike other bird eating raptors like merlins or sparrowhawks who trend to eat mainly the breast meat, seem to have a taste for breast and thighs. The simplest way for a peregrine to eat the thigh meat is to eat legs whole. The legs don’t stay eaten for long, after the thigh meat has been digested in the peregrine crop; a large pouch like enlargement in the birds oesophagus. The unwanted leg is then rejected, minus the thigh meat, along with any other indigestibles, such as bone and feathers, in the form of a pellet.
Visitors to the watch point this season have been treat to an example of peregrine pellet as one of a few new additions to our small peregrine props display items. Other items include peregrine feathers and a hatched peregrine eggshell and yes the pellet authentic and it is complete with pigeon foot!
Hope to see you soon.
Adam Murphy – Peregrine Ranger