A Rousing Peregrine Falcon

I don’t believe I’ve ever been this close to a Peregrine Falcon as it roused.


1/1600, f/6.3, ISO 1000, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

This is the presumed female (based mostly on size) Peregrine Falcon I photographed eating a coot near the Jordan River earlier this month. When this photo was taken she had eaten her fill, pooped and was preparing to take off. It was cloudy at dawn so the light was dim for most of the time I spent with her but just prior to this shot the sun partially peeked out of the clouds and gave me some nice soft light.

Here she’s rousing (shaking her erect feathers) just before lifting off. As she roused she turned back to look my way which really made her yellow cere, lore and eye ring stand out in the improved light and I even got a nice catch light in the eye. I like how well-defined four of her raised flank feathers are and how different in color and pattern they are from her upper tail coverts on the side of her rump. I also think the heavily frosted grass in such soft light provides an interesting setting.

I believe the dim light at the beginning of my time with her gave her the confidence to feed on the coot in my presence. She actually approached the coot by walking up to it after I had stopped my pickup and had my lens on her. If the light had been better early on I believe she would have flown off.

Timing is everything in these situations. Sometimes it’s planned but more often it’s pure, dumb luck.


Note to photographers: At ISO 1000 I was a little concerned about introducing more noise into the background during processing so I chose to apply sharpening selectively to the bird only by masking her prior to sharpening (sharpening increases noise).



26 comments to A Rousing Peregrine Falcon

  • James Waghorne

    Seeing one on the ground and from the eye level you took the picture, is truly a treat to see.
    Thanks for this prospective of this amazing Falcon and sharing this thrilling shot with us.

  • Marty K

    You keep saying “luck.” I say “skill!” 🙂

    So neat to be able to see that many individual feathers as she coyly checks you out. I do believe she’s a-tryin’ to flirt with you! 😉

    • Marty, when it comes to bird photography you very often have to have luck before you can even think of applying your skills. That’s what happened here. 🙂

  • Where to start?
    This is an incredible image. Love the frosty grass. And that plumage. And the eye.
    Wow, wow, and wow.
    I am so very grateful that all your preparation/dedication/persistence sometimes allows room for pure dumb luck to bless you. And us.

  • Dick Harlow

    Beautiful shot Ron, I love all the feather definition.

  • Charlotte Norton

    Sensational shot Ron!


  • Laura Culley

    “Dumb luck” is all about being out there and ready to take advantage of situations that arise when you are out there. Or, as Roger Penske said, “luck is where preparation meets opportunity.” THAT’S why you’re lucky 😉
    And what a beauty! Of course, I’m easily amused with raptors, BUT that doesn’t take away from the magnificence you captured! I’m living where I could fly a peregrine or a prairie, but there’s probably not enough of me left to do that. Harrumph! On the bright side, Jack caught a rabbit yesterday in a beautiful pitch up dive down maneuver that dropped my jaw to the ground! Wish I could capture photos, but the images remain in my mind where it’s mostly accessible whenever I want. Still…

    • “luck is where preparation meets opportunity”

      Well Laura, to fulfill that “preparation” part you have to take a camera with you to get the photos! Use your 3rd hand and eye for taking photos while you’re managing your birds in the field with the other two! 🙂

      • Laura Culley

        Yep, those are all part and parcel of your luck! I go out there, too, but I fail at all the camera parts. 😉
        And wouldn’t you just love to have a couple more hands/eyes/brain cells/legs, etc.? Redundancy is GOOD! LOL!

  • Patty Chadwick

    Because of the contrast of bird and frosty surroundings, the variety of textures, the feather detail and the pose, I find this an increadibly beautiful image….

  • I loved the contrast between the sharply defined and very “contrasty” bird and the surround of frosty, monochromatic growth—it set the subject off beautifully……

  • Robert (RJ) Davis

    I would call it “Smart Luck”. Your readiness and skill brings another heightened ‘awareness’ to the scene as well. I am so impressed with the consistent quality and content of your photographs!

  • I tend to sharpen some areas and then dehaze the whole image – is this stupid? Probably. I do wish I knew what I was doing. Coursework is great up to a point – after that, it’s judgment and skill, and patience.

    Peregrine on the ground thrills my heart every time. Two months ago, saw one on the sand at a Pacific Ocean beach. It had taken a scoter and instantly the ravens, crows, and vultures came in and took it from her/him. The first thing I saw was white feathers drifting along the sand. Then I saw the vultures on the kill, and the ravens and crows pulling the vultures’ tail feathers, and then fellow photographer George said “what’s that?” I looked, and there was the peregrine, some yards off, sitting, watching. What a thrill!! We watched and photographed while she watched, then lifted off and flew. Unforgettable. We’re in a small, fortunate gorup.

    • “Coursework is great up to a point”

      I agree, Martha. But in my experience that “point” doesn’t go very far when trying to learn how to process images skillfully and well. There’s just too much peripheral and unnecessary stuff (especially in Photoshop) that you have to weed through to get to what’s useful.

      IMO the absolute best way is to learn image processing is one on one from someone else who’s knowledgeable while you’re both sitting at the computer. That’s how I learned and I’m still learning.

  • Joanne OBrien

    Gorgeous! And thanks for the photography hints. I love learning how you create these images.

  • Judy Gusick

    Beautiful! Everything certainly came together for this shot. 🙂 I “know” but I’m always surprised at how aware they are of our presence,that they “know” we’re looking at them, and they generally don’t like it! Her colors and feather detail really do “pop” in this light.

    • Yes, they’re always “aware”, Judy. But thankfully she was completely calm and accepting during the entire time I spent with her. I’m sure the dim light at the beginning figured into that equation. If my presence had kept her off her meal I’d have vamoosed.