“Does the hawk fly by your wisdom,
And spread its wings toward the south?
Does the eagle mount up at your command,
And make its nest on high?”
Have you ever considered possessing a raptor (bird of prey) as a pet? Some of you may have read the book My Side of the Mountain, in which the main character traps a wild peregrine falcon and uses it to hunt for food. This sport is known as falconry, and over the last several months I’ve been working to meet the legal requirements so that I could participate in it.
Because of my study about the birds used in falconry, I have learned so much. They have given me such an appreciation for God’s design in creation, especially with birds!
Did you know that the peregrine falcon is the fastest animal on earth? It’s been clocked at over 200 MPH! You may find it surprising to read that they don’t reach this speed by flapping. Instead, they will climb very high in altitude and circle until they see prey. They will then employ what is known as a tear-drop stoop, or dive, to reach maximum speed. Becoming as aerodynamic as possible, they will attempt to accurately calculate the exact flight path needed to hit their prey while diving at over 200 MPH. This is incredible because at that speed, adjustments on flight path that are barely off will result in missing the target completely. Yet, they are designed to accurately judge where they will end up. When moving that fast, the rapid pace of air moving into the bird would make it nearly impossible for it to breathe. However, God designed them to have little bones at the end of their nostrils that control the amount of air that can enter, enabling them to breathe. Incredible!
The eye of a falcon (as well as that of hawks, such as the Red Tailed Hawk) is incredibly sharp. It is said that a Kestrel (a smaller falcon) on top of the Empire State Building could read a newspaper sitting on the sidewalk because of its incredible vision. The Peregrine Falcon is similarly outfitted with incredible vision. Their eyes (as with other birds of prey) are 1.4x larger than other birds their weight, allowing them to see more at a given time. They are equipped with 4-5x the number of photoreceptors as human eyes, enabling them to have incredibly sharp image and to see tiny details that would require adjustment in flight towards prey. Job recognized this is Genesis, when he says, “That path no bird knows, Nor has the falcon’s eye seen it.”
In my opinion, the coolest feature is the nicitating membrane. This is an extra eyelid (in the picture below, which is of a hawk, the membrane is the blue colored eyelid) that comes down over the eye to protect it from wind damage and debris while flying. In addition, it is useful when the bird is diving after prey into brush. But it gets even better! Did you know it is clear? The Lord designed it so they would have an extra, clear eyelid that not only protects their eyes but also enables them to still see clearly as they are flying or diving.
Learning about falconry has given me such appreciation for the Lord’s design. He is awesome and worthy to be praised. His fingerprints are on each tiny detail of this world.