Peregrine Falcons - Pelagic foragers?

Subject: Peregrine Falcons - Pelagic foragers?
From: "John Graham" <>
Date: Tue, 27 May 1997 21:42:22 +0200
Tony Palliser's fascinating observation of a Peregrine 5nm out at sea 
reminds me of similar, although less extreme, occurances here in South 

While birding at Cape Point a couple of years back, I recall 
watching an adult Peregrine flying from the cliffs above the 
lighthouse, a regular site, eastwards across False Bay at an altitude 
of approx 150 metres until I eventually lost sight of the bird as it 
diminished to sub-microscopic size, at which time it still appeared 
to be heading rather purposefully towards the far side of the bay. 
For those unfamiliar with Cape Town, I hasten to add that the nearest 
land across the bay is about 27km distant, and with the high 
densities of Peregrines in the SW Cape it seems unlikely that it 
could consider the far shores as it's own turf. The offshore waters 
of this part of the bay teem with Gannets, WC Petrels, Sooty 
Shearwaters (at times), Kelp Gulls, Crested and Common Terns, and 
Cape Corm and various other cormorants, not to mention influxes of 
various other pelagic species in suitable weather conditions. However 
possible it may be for a Peregrine to nail some of the smaller of the 
above, I have great difficulty picturing a Peregrine carrying birds 
of this size back to the shore from any significant distance out, and 
there aint no trees to perch on out there! In contrast, there are 
prolific foraging opportunities around the cliffs and mountain slopes 
of the Point, ....... so what's that darn bird up to???

In subsequent discussion, Mike Fraser also related seeing Peregrine 
chasing pelagic seabirds (sorry, I can't recall the species) in 
False Bay, within a km or two of the shore. Barry Rose also tells me 
that while he was accompanying fishing trawlers 4-5nm off the west 
coast of the bulge of Africa, there were times when the most common 
birds in the wake were Yellowbilled Kites and Palmnut Vultures (he 
mentioned numbers of 6-7 and 3-4 respectively). I also have heard stories 
of European Hobby, Rock Kestrel and Blackshouldered Kite alighting on 
ships out of sight of the shore, and of a Barn Owl being seen around 
30km offshore.

While the latter stories obviously refer to lost birds, the reference 
to raptors, in particular Peregrines, foraging relatively far 
offshore is of great interest, and I'd be intrigued to hear of other 
stories of similar observations, and any suggestions as to the 
possible benefit of such a strategy.


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