Suzanne Amador Kane, from Haverford College in Pennsylvania, wanted to learn about how falcons pursue their prey. A literature search revealed a startling lack of data for the specific questions she had, so she took a different tack and asked falconers around the world if they would allow her to attach a head cam to their birds. (Imagine the world’s smallest GoPro.) A few said yes.
What she found was that instead of pursuing directly from behind, an inefficient method that allows the prey to easily evade and eventually tire out its pursuer, falcons use their unique vision to head off and intercept their victims.
“Falcons have two regions of very acute vision: one directed almost in the forward direction and the other dramatically off to the side, 30 degrees off,” Amador Kane told the Journal of Experimental Biology.
The second angle, it turns out, allows the falcon to maneuver in a way that keeps the prey motionless against the falcon’s field of vision. It also allows them to track their prey from a position of stealth. The prey doesn’t see the attack coming until the last possible moment, likely shortening the hunt by a wide margin.
A greatest hits video of the collected footage went up on YouTube just six days ago, but has already collected over 2.2 million views.
I must admit that while I’m always rooting for the falcon (because they’re just so cool), it was a bit hard to watch the final footage and see just how valiantly that crow fought for escape. Mostly, though, my mouth was open seeing a peregrine hunt cooperatively with another falcon. I didn’t know they did that!
Another highlight: the incredible stoop straight onto a mostly unsuspecting crow.