A Peregrine Falcon Enjoying Duck For Breakfast (and a faux pas on my part)

Yesterday morning I watched as a couple of ducks flew off of some high cliffs in front of me when a Peregrine Falcon suddenly appeared from out of nowhere and gave chase. The falcon’s incredible speed closed the gap between them quickly but in the end the maneuverability of the ducks allowed them to escape the talons of death. By then they were far away but Mia’s superior eyesight and blow-by-blow description allowed us both to experience the excitement.

During the long drive home (after being pretty much skunked all morning by unexpected clouds, strong winds and a resulting scarcity of birds) my mind kept coming back to that falcon and its lack of success which reminded me of another encounter I had several years ago with a much luckier Peregrine Falcon and a duck. For some reason that experience stuck in my mind during the 90 minute drive home – thus today’s post.

First some notes and a warning about the following images:

  • These photos were taken in absolutely deplorable lighting conditions and it shows. The clouds were thick and there was snow/thick frost on the ground but the bird was close and seemed unconcerned by my presence.
  • Be forewarned – some of these images are graphic. If you’re sensitive to such things I suggest that you scroll no further.
  • As for my faux pas, clueless ol’ me forgot today was Mother’s Day until late last evening. Graphic images somehow seem inappropriate for Mother’s Day but for a variety of reasons it was too late by then to change the subject of this post so I’m going to run with it. Sincere apologies to all you mothers out there…



1/250, f/5.6, ISO 640, Canon 7D, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM, not baited, set up or called in

Several years ago I spent some time with this Peregrine Falcon on a duck kill along the causeway to Antelope Island. The duck is a Northern Shoveler and I believe the falcon to be a hatch year bird so this kill was a victory to be proud of for such a young falcon. By the time I got my lens on the birds the de-feathering process was already partially completed.



1/320, f/5.6, ISO 640, Canon 7D, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM, not baited, set up or called in

At times there were so many duck feathers flying through the air and sticking to the face of the falcon that they occasionally obscured its face. Here there are two feathers with interesting patterns hanging down in a long string from its beak. At first both birds were behind a frost-covered log but when the occasional vehicle would drive by it would make the falcon a little nervous so it…



1/400, f/5.6, ISO 640, Canon 7D, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM, not baited, set up or called in

dragged the duck to another spot on the beach before getting serious about its meal.



1/500, f/5.6, ISO 640, Canon 7D, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM, not baited, set up or called in

This falcon was extremely averse to duck intestines – it had absolutely no interest in eating them so it spent much of its time plucking them from the carcass and…



1/500, f/5.6, ISO 640, Canon 7D, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM, not baited, set up or called in

discarding them. The intestines of the duck were bright orange and by the time the falcon was ready to eat its meal in earnest they were strewn all over the beach.



1/500, f/5.6, ISO 640, Canon 7D, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM, not baited, set up or called in

Most of the time the falcon was calm and only interested in dining but several times scavenging ravens flew by which in combination with the occasional passing vehicle made it a little nervous. Here the falcon is seriously considering flying off with the duck but in the end…



1/400, f/5.6, ISO 640, Canon 7D, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM, not baited, set up or called in

it chose to stay and finish its meal. By the time this photo was taken the falcon’s crop was obviously bulging, especially in comparison to some of my earlier photos. Eventually the light got even worse so I left the bird to eat in peace.

I’ve posted a few images of this Peregrine in the past but all these photos are new to my blog. I spent 27 minutes with these birds, took 322 photos and kept 174 of them and most of them have never seen the light of day so I decided to feature a few more of them this morning.

Once again, apologies for my bad timing. I hope all you wonderful mothers can still enjoy your Mother’s Day…






42 comments to A Peregrine Falcon Enjoying Duck For Breakfast (and a faux pas on my part)

  • Nicole

    Motherhood is very gory… the surgeon has to take out all of your guts, as the peregrine does above, when grabbing the infant (its still a fetus until it comes out of womb????) via c-section! Of course, the guts are subsequently returned to the body, rather than discarded around the beach!!!

  • I like your photos & writing, & empathize with you about the M’s Day timing. At least you didn’t accidentally post before it was complete, as I did today. Am subscribing & looking forward to more of your work!

  • Laura Culley

    Personally, I’m not sure it’s available to completely de-feather a duck! I’ve tried several times and there are SO many feathers that you might end up agreeing with raptors and calling them “fiber.” LOL!
    I’m always amazed at just how surgical they are (generally) about removing the innards. Sometimes they eat them, but other times, they’re summarily discarded. Mariah always delighted at flinging the guts onto my glasses…just one of the glamour parts of falconry 🙂
    But seriously, sorry your most recent peregrine missed its attempt at a major duck feast. But that happens. Surely the next attempt was more productive since that bird most probably has a nest full of hungry kids waiting to be fed, not necessarily patiently. It’s that time of year and all.
    BTW, the falcon is presumed to be the female in falconry language while the male is called a tiercel, from the French, meaning (roughly translated) one-third smaller. So it’s a Peregrine falcon or a tiercel Peregrine. Now you’re ready for Who Wants to be a Millionaire 🙂

    • Laura, You falconers have some colorful (and sometimes confusing to me) traditions!

      • Laura Culley

        I’m often reminded that falconers are just plain weird and often insane. I’m NOT saying that like it’s a bad thing, but it just IS.
        I love ancient falconry language. It’s survived so long and it’s lovely, colorful and reasonably precise (although there are some doozies in there like Funking the bank*). The peregrine thing, falcon v. tiercel, is very precise, assuming you can distinguish female from male at a distance. Then you get into the gyrfalcon and the gyrkin/jerkin, Lanner falcon and Lannerette (the male), Hobby falcon and robin (male), Saker falcon and Sakeret, etc. It goes on and on.
        Falconry language really helps you decode writers like Shakespeare, too. There are a bunch of falconry terms in his writing.
        *Funking the bank refers to a falconry bird standing on the rim of its bath before deciding to jump in. NOW you’re REALLY ready for Who Wants to be a Millionaire!! 🙂

        • Patty Chadwick

          My friend, Julie, (now gone), was asked by her daughter, “Mom, what does ‘funk’mean?” My friend asked where her daughter had heard it and was told ,”Today,on the (school) bus. Someone said ‘Funk you!’ “…Just then, two, low-flying mallards flew over us, quacking loudly. “What the heck was that!!!”, my friend exclaimed, cringinng. “Don’t worry, Julie!”, I told her, “It was just two funking dunks!”

  • I am with the falcon. I am averse to guts too. And the colour is irrelevant – except if they help me avoid them better.
    It is a truly impressive catch for the peregrine, and its mother should be proud.

  • Mikal Deese

    Ron, some of us “mothers” are bored with violets and chocolates, but a close up view of a wild Peregrine and duck guts are welcome any day of the year. Great Mother’s Day present! Thank you!

  • Alice Beckcom

    A very interesting series of shots. I certainly got some idea of the amount of intestines a duck has and never thought what color they might be, until this morning!!
    Thank you, Ron.

    • I was surprised by what color they were too, Alice. And by how much of them there were. The falcon just kept pulling more and more out until I thought there must be almost an endless supply…

  • Diana

    Thanks for the PEFA. Wonderful detail. A great mom’s day present to us all. Diana

  • April Olson

    Great series. This mother was not offended but then I have frozen mice for unexpected drop by visitors. Hope your lighting and bird sightings are better today on your adventure.

    • Thanks, April. Lighting, winds and birds were only slightly better today than yesterday but we did find one cooperative Short-eared Owl.

      • April Olson

        You made me feel better about staying home this morning. I was going out to BRMBR this am but it looked like there would be thin high clouds at sunrise so I opted out to work at home.

  • Marty K

    Very cool series. After having taught cadaver-based human anatomy at the college level for many years, it takes a lot more than duck guts to gross me out. 😉 Besides, I can always say that the duck died of natural causes, right?

    Happy Mothers’ Day to all the mom-types out there, including those who are both mom and dad and those whose children have feathers, fur, or scales. 😀

    • Ahh memories, Marty. It was a human anatomy class at Palomar College in CA that lit my fire for science way back in 1966. That determined the direction of my major and eventually my profession. We each spent the entire semester dissecting our own cat but sadly no cadavers (except for a psychology professor I remember) in the lab.

      • Marty K

        “no cadavers (except for a psychology professor I remember)” LOL — mine was a biochem professor

  • I’m sure this falcon’s mother would be very proud! Too bad you can’t send a photo card to her. 🙂 I enjoyed the photos. Thanks for posting them?

    • Thank you, Alison. For some reason WordPress didn’t automatically approve your comment so I had to wait till I got home to approve it myself. I don’t know why but that just happens sometimes. Sorry…

  • Patty Chadwick

    Motherhood can be pretty gory at times,too…for a multitude of reasons and circumstances…this is reality and therefore a fine Mothers’. Day gift…AND, most importantly, no damned Devil wire! I don’t see problems with the light…colors, detail are nice and crisp. HAPPY MOTHERS’S DAY to you and all the mothers and single-parent-man-mothers out there…may you have a duck in every pot….

    • Thanks, Patty. But if I have a choice, please allow me a chicken in the pot instead of a greasy ol’ duck… 🙂

      • Marty K

        Duck’s better on a spit or roasted so the grease can render properly. 🙂

        • Laura Culley

          Hawk-caught duck is wonderfully delightful for a Christmas dinner (or otherwise) but hawk-caught pheasant is outrageously tasty! That’s my absolute favorite. Pheasant breast (the hawk gets the rest so everybody gets the best parts) baked in a garlic/blackberry/lemon sauce is utterly sublime! Just sayin’! 🙂

  • Susan Stone

    Wonderful series. It would be fascinating to watch this process in person.

  • Marina schultz

    Awsome beautiful !! What’s wrong with light no shadows and great detail!! I have not spotted a single peregrine this year .. so beautiful ! My second favorite after harriers

  • Naomi

    Wonderful sequence! And as a mother, I’ve seen worse things over breakfast than duck guts 🙂

  • Dick Harlow

    I love the shots even in the poor light. How do we know this falcon isn’t a young female feasting on duck? Or a mother to be in the future? Future Mothers have to eat too!
    You should see a Cooper’s plucking a pigeon! Missed that photographic chance last year.
    Happy Mother’s Day to all the Mothers!

  • Judy Gusick

    Great series, Ron! 🙂 It wasn’t until a few years ago that I was really aware how meticulous birds of prey were about defrocking a large area of the birds they got before feasting and that there were certain parts they had no interest in eating. It was a bit of a puzzle the first time I came across remains like that. Now I KNOW what probably “got it” – animal vs. bird tho have also noticed the cats tend to leave certain organs also.

    • It took me a while to learn the same lesson, Judy. But I’ve now watched so many raptor species reject intestines that I almost expect it to happen every time. It doesn’t but it sure happens often.