The Peregrine Falcon occurs on all continents except Antarctica. This wide distribution has resulted in it being well studied, and renowned for its incredible high-speed stoops that have been measured to exceed 240 km per hour. This species has evolved to hunt at high speed and its nostrils are shaped like the air-intakes of jet planes to enable it to breathe efficiently while in pursuit of its prey.
These falcons are relatively small, having a length of about 35 cm. However, the behaviour has resulted in great public appeal. The Peregrines feed mainly on birds, usually the size of doves, which they catch in flight or strike at great speed.
These falcons breed mainly on inaccessible cliffs but have adapted to man-made structures like tall buildings and disused quarries. A number of nest boxes have been placed on high-rise buildings around the Northern Suburbs and have successfully encouraged these scarce birds to breed.
As is the case with most raptors, the female is noticeably larger than the male. The nest is no more than a scrape in the sand in a pothole or on a sheltered ledge on a rocky cliff. Three to four eggs are laid and incubated by both sexes, with the female being responsible for the larger portion of this duty.
The heavily marked eggs hatch after about 30 days. The chicks, which initially are covered with white down feathers, have unusually large feet that are armed with sharp claws and use these fearsome weapons to defend themselves from potential predators. The youngsters fledge after 40 days and depend on their parents to develop their hunting techniques.
When you find yourself in the vicinity of the Tygerberg Hills, keep your eyes open for these fascinating birds that breed in and around the Tygerberg Nature reserve.
The Hadeda’s raucous call is unmistakeable. Loud, harsh and usually catching you by surprise. Hadedas were not indigenous to strandveld or renosterveld of the South Western Cape. Man-made changes in the form of cultivated agricultural fields, irrigated sports grounds and alien trees for nesting have made the environment more suitable to these birds’ requirements. This species moved into our area during the 1980’s and is now widespread.
The diet of this bird consists of a variety of insects, spiders, earthworms, snails and frogs. Prey items are either taken from the surface or captured by probing into soft soil. After good rains, groups of these birds may be seen on waterlogged sports grounds or cultivated fields where they gorge on insects that have been displaced by the standing water.
The Hadeda is somewhat of an oddball when compared with its cousins in South Africa. It is noisy, conspicuous and does not nest in colonies.
Pairs build nests in tall trees, often above streams or dams. The nest platform is an untidy bowl of sticks in which 2 to 4 eggs may be laid. Both parents incubate the eggs, which take between 25 to 28 days to hatch. Once the fledglings are able to clamber about they will leave the nest and can be seen perched ungainly on adjacent branches. The youngsters will take their first flight about 35 days after hatching and then join their parents when they roost in groups after the breeding season.