The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Regional

May 29, 2013

Zoo Tales: Peregrine Falcon Nature's Sprinter

(Continued)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013 —

Peregrines are high on the food chain and have few predators—except the one that could cause their most rapid decline—man. Primarily, they feed on the flesh of other animals, grasping and killing their prey with their talons. It is a myth that the larger raptors can grasp and carry off small children and larger domestic animals. A golden eagle, for example, weighs about 12-15 pounds. It can lift and fly away with only about one-third its own weight.

In cities, peregrines seem to have mastered catching pigeons. Elsewhere, they feed especially on shorebirds and ducks. Their high perches give them the perfect opportunity for their aerial assaults.

Once an endangered species in the United States, the peregrine population was completely eradicated east of the Mississippi River by the mid-1970s. Like so many other birds of prey, they have been shot and trapped by farmers and ranchers over the years; they have been poisoned by DDT and similar pesticides, and they have had their habitats destroyed and taken away by growing human populations and economic development. Only recently have humans begun to realize the value of all raptors as controllers of rodent populations and as indicators of the general health of the environment.

Under federal and state law, it is illegal for anyone to injure a bird of prey or to even own parts, such as feathers and talons. Federal permits are needed to own or keep them.

Fortunately, it’s not too late to save peregrines and all birds of prey, but it is essential that we all develop a more concerned attitude and tolerance for all the wild creatures that share the earth with us.

Along with the peregrine falcon at the Rocky Coast exhibit, Zoo visitors can also view four other raptors: a pair of burrowing owls at the Sonora Desert exhibit, a bateleur eagle at the African Pavilion exhibit and a barred owl at the Streamside exhibit.

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