Peregrine Falcon with Common Starling prey

To: 'John Layton' <>, 'Canberra birds' <>
Subject: Peregrine Falcon with Common Starling prey
From: Philip Veerman <>
Date: Sun, 16 Feb 2020 02:08:36 +0000

Yes I reckon your watching didn’t bother it at all. Falcons will often go to the ground or a fence post or stump to kill prey and start plucking it. They usually do this quickly by biting the head or neck. Maybe they don’t like carrying injured and still living struggling prey. It is not odd for them to then carry it to some preferred other site, depending on terrain. Maybe not for big and heavy prey like ducks that they will eat on the ground.


Old English falconry tradition gives Peregrine Falcons the name “gentle” (as in tiercel gentle – a male Peregrine) for this habit of quickly killing prey, as distinct from the sort of brutal habits of goshawks, eagles etc.  


This is a little different from what Goshawks etc do. They will often take a long time to kill prey, and may sometimes carry and fight with the prey for quite a long time, basically often tearing them apart whilst they are still struggling, making a big mess and plucking and starting eating them before they are dead. There are hours of internet film of this if you can bear to watch it.




From: John Layton [
Sent: Sunday, 16 February, 2020 10:25 AM
To: Canberra birds
Subject: [canberrabirds] Peregrine Falcon with Common Starling prey


This morning I drove along Parkwood Road, Holt to see how the country looked after the rains. I pulled up just before the end of the sealed surface and walked a short distance along the fence hesitating when I noticed movement about forty metres away which turned out to be feathers floating on the breeze. I slipped on my prescription sunnies, advanced another ten paces and stopped, astonished by the drama unfolding before me. A Peregrine Falcon was perched on a post plucking a Common Starling. The sandy-brown colour of the latter’s plumage indicated a juvenile bird.


At first I was taken aback and held my breath, feeling a surge of concentration as though attention to my surroundings ceased to be a priority. I’ve come upon wild creatures unexpectedly before and felt a similar tension, a heightening of senses perhaps, and the reaction intensifies when it’s a top-echelon aerial predator like a Peregrine Falcon.


I brought my binoculars to bear cautiously, mindful sudden movement could put the falcon to flight. Nevertheless, after about two seconds, the Peregrine sprang from the post and, carrying its prey, flew to a height of some twenty metres before descending on a course which probably took it to an eyrie on the cliff face below the viewing platform at Shepherds Lookout.



John Layton


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