The Canadian Peregrine Foundation

Falcon a classroom hit
Tue, November 28, 2006
Joe Matyas, The London Free Press


Pupils get a bird's eye view of the mighty, endangered peregrine falcon.

A peregrine falcon can dive at up to 300 kilometres an hour and knock out
smaller birds with the force of half a kilogram or more of swiftly plunging
weight.

"They extend their talons and punch their prey unconscious," a
representative of the Canadian Peregrine Foundation told pupils at Trafalgar
public school in London yesterday.

It's the fastest creature on Earth, said Emma Stainton of the endangered
species.

"Bar none," she said, giving the cheetah its due on land, while saying
peregrines can swoop at more than three times a cheetah's top running speed.


Peregrines have a second pair of transparent eyelids which act as protective
goggles and air baffles which prevent "their eyes from popping out of their
heads" from the pressure of high-speed flight.

Stainton introduced the kids to a live female named Falon.

Raised in captivity in Alberta, Falon is accustomed to close contact with
humans, she said, as the bird of prey perched on her gloved hand in the
school's library.

But she warned a photographer not to stand behind the bird or make any
sudden moves.

Stainton visited the school to discuss the endangered species under the
sponsorship of the TD Bank Friends of the Environment Foundation.

Peregrines were once widely found throughout the Great Lakes but their
numbers declined between 1940 and 1970 due to reproductive failure caused by
such pesticides as DDT, Stainton said.

Today, there are about two dozen known nesting sites in Ontario cities,
including five in southern Ontario.

One of them is London where the Ministry of Natural Resources and local
naturalists have been observing a nesting site on the office tower at Dundas
and Wellington since 1996.

Peregrines like high office towers because they resemble their natural
habitats, rocky cliffs, said Stainton.

In cities, they can feast on pigeons, seagulls, crows, starlings and other
medium to small birds, she said.

The future of peregrines is precarious, she said, adding eight of 10
hatchlings don't survive their first year.

When Stainton asked questions, hands shot up.

"It's quite astounding how much kids know about birds of prey," she said.

Teacher James Williamson said his students were so enthusiastic because they
are fascinated by the subject.

FALCON SCHOOL VISITS

- Today: 2:15-3:30 p.m., St. Mary's, 347 Lyle St.

- Tomorrow: 10 a.m. to 12:45 p.m., Princess Elizabeth, 247 Thompson Rd.;
1:15-3:25 p.m., Wortley Road, 301 Wortley Rd.

- Thursday, 9:20-11 a.m., Eagle Heights, 284 Oxford St. W.; 1-3:15 p.m.,
Wilton Grove, 66 Osgoode St.


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Canadian Peregrine Foundation