Environment

Shaheen falcon spotted at an apartment in Thiruvananthapuram

A Shaheen falcon

A Shaheen falcon   | Photo Credit: KR Deepak

It was the first reported sighting of the fastest bird in the world in the capital city

When Gopal Krishnakumar, a student of Christ Nagar College, Maranalloor, woke up to strange noises outside his bedroom window, he assumed it was the usual ruckus created by pigeons that infest his apartment complex at Mannanthala. As the commotion persisted, he walked over to the window and was surprised to see a bird slightly larger than a crow sitting on the ledge, making a meal of a pigeon it had caught. As it looked different from the common birds of prey like Kite, he called over his parents to show them the ‘visitor’. The bird appeared to be totally nonchalant about all the attention it was receiving, and when the sliding window was opened to take better pictures using the mobile phone, it just gave a piercing stare and continued with its breakfast.

The Shaheen falcon spotted at Mannanthala

The Shaheen falcon spotted at Mannanthala   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

When Gopal’s father, C Krishnakumar, my colleague at the Asian School of Business, Trivandrum showed me the pictures, I literally jumped off my seat — for, the bird was a ‘Shaheen Falcon’ also known as Indian Peregrine Falcon, the fastest bird in the world! The Shaheen Falcon (scientific name: Falco peregrinus peregrinator) is a subspecies of the Peregrine Falcon and usually feeds on small and medium-sized birds. What makes it unique from other raptors is the characteristic hunting style — called the ‘stoop’ — the bird does a high speed dive from a great height and strikes its prey at a very high speed, often in excess of 300 kmph! Now remember that this is the typical speed of a bullet train and almost three times the speed of a cheetah!

While migratory species of Falcons like Amur Falcon and Peregrine Falcon have been sighted on the outskirts of the city, this is perhaps the first reported sighting of a Shaheen Falcon from the city. A quick check in Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird database revealed no past reports and most of the senior birders in the city also confirmed the same. Peregrine falcons are usually found along mountain ranges and river valleys, but it is not unusual to find them in cities, especially in high rises where they are able to find prey like pigeons and other small birds very easily. They usually build their nest in the mountain cliffs, which also serve as ambush points for them to wait for the prey and launch the aerial assault after spotting the same.

The distinguishing mark that separates Shaheen Falcons from Peregrine is the white colour around their throats. The bird is usually spotted alone and Peregrine falcons are known to mate for life — like hornbills.

Gopal’s sighting has created a buzz among bird watchers in the city and you might actually find most of them with their heads turned upward to get a glimpse of the rare avian!

The author is a faculty member at Asian School of Business

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Printable version | May 29, 2020 7:54:49 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/a-shaheen-falcon-spotted-in-thiruvananthapuram-city/article30692077.ece

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