One-eyed gives up and lowers himself down onto the talus slope in one of the "finger canyons", Poitrey Canyon and the screeching goes away. She was a very aggressive prairie falcon. I put on a climbing saddle and hook the rope on it. I lower myself as quickly as possible, down along the canyon wall to take a look at him. It was funny as hell and I was laughing all the way down.
"It ain't funny you fucker." he says as I look at the cuts which are now streaming blood and caking in his hair.
"I wonder where the male is?" One-eyed says looking up the canyon wall.
The males aren't nearly as big, but can be just as aggressive.
"Next time, I am bringing my hard hat." The Pirate swears.
Most falcons are very protective of their nests but not as much as this prairie falcon. Usually they would get upset, scream at you and fly around a lot. This one definitely wanted us to go away. I look up behind me and see them both fly into their nest on the ledge of the cliff.
Feathered Killing Machines: A Brief Introduction to Raptors
Not all birds of prey (raptors) are the same. There are falcons, buteos and accipiters. Loosely, they are classified and identified by their wing shapes. The largest bird of prey is the magnificent American Harpy Eagle. With a six foot (1.83 meters) wing span, this bird can seriously mess you up. Fortunately, they exist in the tropics of South America.
The ornithologists that study them wear hard hats and thick leather jackets, which ultimately get ripped to shreds. Otherwise their skin would be shredded by the Harpy's back talons. You could be seriously injured. A Harpy would easily make your dog or cat a lunch. I have seen films of them and they nab sloths and monkeys for breakfast. Here's an example from Google Video . Note the size of the legs and claws on this feathered beast.
In 1972 the pesticide DDT was banned in the U.S. We were in this canyon to see what affect, if any, the ban on DDT had made on breeding. DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) at one time was ubiquitous and it was thought that it made the shells of eggs of birds of prey very thin and then crushed by the parents in the nest. This caused the dramatic decline in raptors and peregrine falcons that once existed in New York City near Central Park and had all but vanished.
We found in only a few years that their numbers had increased dramatically. We were checking this by counting unbroken eggs in nests of prairie falcons that resided on ledges of canyon walls. This canyon in Colorado had prairie falcon nests every mile or two.
Ferruginous hawk - Buteo regalis
On our way to the canyons of the Eastern Colorado plains, we passed through the grasslands of the Southern Great Plains, in particular the Cimarron National Grassland. The grasslands were/are part of the habitat of the Ferruginous hawks; the largest of the hawks. They are a magnificent bird. Watching a Ferruginous hawk hunt is boring. They are a lazy hunter and they do a lot of ground hunting. In other words, they find a mammal hole in the ground and sit there and wait until their meal appears. They are quite successful and efficient at doing this.
Red-Tailed hawk - Buteo jamaicensis
These birds are everywhere and have benefited greatly from humans in terms of habitat. If you have spent any time on the Great Plains or Midwestern U.S. or just about anywhere in the U.S., you have probably seen them. The are the ones that are making "lazy circles in the sky". Like most buteos/hawks they are lazy fliers. The prefer soaring to flapping their wings and hover or "kite" above their prey. I have seen them carrying off jack rabbits and if they are really hungry they will eat fresh road kill.
The Golden eagle - Aquila chrysaetos
Golden eagles are magnificent as well. We are on the edge of their breeding range. The Kazakhs in the remote mountains of Western Mongolia hunt animals as large as wolves with these incredible birds. I have never seen this but I am sure it would be an incredible hunt to witness. Golden eagles hunt best in pairs, they work as partners. One Golden will flush the prey while the other comes in for the kill with its talons brandished and then WHAM, an explosion of fur. Eagles are the bombers in the world of raptors. They are big, deadly, precise and work well together.
The courtship displays are an amazing characteristic of many eagles, especially Golden eagles. They perform on the wing, an amazing cartwheeling display. I have witnessed this several times and this cartwheeling behavior
is truly breathtaking. Note: I have only been able to find this video in RealAudio format. It is worth viewing however.
Cooper's hawk - Accipiter cooperii
Of the accipiters my favorite are the Cooper's hawk. Cooper's hawks are beautiful and they are incredible hunters. Like most accipiters their hunting abilities are specialized more in tactical hunting; darting in and out of the bush with great agility and quickness. Their stealthiness is uncanny and their prey never knows what hit them.
For me, a Cooper's hawk is nature's Apache helicopter. They see their prey off in the distance, lock in on that prey, then using vegetation and brush as their cover, they go in for the kill. Watching a Cooper's hawk hunt is an exciting sight to see. If they were a character in a video game, they would devastate their enemy.
American Kestrel (Sparrow hawk) falcon- Falco sparverius
The smallest of the North American falcons is the American kestrel. They are about the size of a robin or grackle of the Southwest U.S. American kestrel are also one of the most beautiful, in terms of their coloration.
They are fierce and fearless hunters. Lizards, mice and voles are their largest prey. But because of their size they are the only falcon preyed upon by other raptors; like Golden eagles, prairie and peregrine falcons.
The Fastest Animal on Earth: Peregrine falcon - Falco peregrinus
Easily, the fastest, most efficient animal on earth is the Peregrine falcon. They have been clocked at speeds approaching 200 mph (322 kph), in a full stoop. I have been witness to a number of hunts with a falconer that trained peregrine falcons.
The Peregrine is released and it then circles the field climbing to an altitude where she is completely out of sight high above the terrain and falconer. This is called "waiting on". The falconer then flushes the prey (a game bird) out from a bush. Next in a matter of seconds, out of a 180 mph (290 kph) stoop, there is an explosion of feathers, the Peregrine has made its kill, with the speed and agility like no other animal on earth. It would be unusual for its prey to survive. It happens so fast, with such speed and ferocity that you never see the bird in the stoop (dive). You only see the burst of feathers as the falcon strikes her prey with her back talons. There is no other sight quite like it.
Falconry: The Sport of Kings - A Very Brief Intro
The sport of falconry is a complete article in itself. However, very few people should practice falconry. It is all-consuming and must be an obsession. Falconry is demanding and the slightest neglect can end in tragedy for the bird. Falconry requires hours of care and training of the bird. Because the bird is dependent entirely on the falconer, it also means you have to have freshly killed wild meat available daily with no exceptions. This means absolutely no meat from a supermarket. Eventually, most falconers release their bird when they are of breeding age. Raptors cannot be kept as pets as one can with other types of birds.
If you would like to consider falconry you should spend at least a month with an experienced falconer. Only then can you decide if you can do it. If you want to read about the lore, training and practice of falconry, there is only one book to read, "A Hawk for the Bush", by J. P. Mavrogordato. This book is THE book on falconry.
"Which came first Jaguar, the chicken or the egg?" One-eyed asked me once.
"Dunno fuck face, I suppose the egg." I answer him trying to be sarcastic and waiting for his answer.
"When will you learn?...the dinosaur came first, you idiot." he laughs.
Special thanks to jd for this comment. It is excellent
A word of thanks to CTS for the links in this thread. Check them out.
This is the prelude to the Mexico travels detailed in "When You're Lost In the Rain, In Juarez and It's Eastertime Too"