Falcons Track Prey Like Jet-fighter Pilots, Says Study

They could fly straight at the prey, but preferring not to be eaten, the prey will take evasive action.


Falcons are famous for their extraordinary eyesight. One might assume they see the prey and fly like straight at it like feathered arrows. And indeed they do, but what if the meal-to-be has spotted the bird and taken evasive action?

It turns out that falcons have developed a strategy for spunky prey, says a new study in The Journal of Experimental Biology. The falcon maneuvers in flight to keep the prey's image central in its line of sight, which is just what fighter pilots do.

Like the pilots, the raptor is trying to head off the target as quickly as possible
The video shows a hapless crow flying for its life as a pair of falcons homes in for the kill. The chase was captured by a miniature camera mounted on the head of one of the falcons, which caught the crow within seconds.

The falcon cam video is part of research project conducted by Suzanne Amador Kane, who wanted to investigate the physics behind how these airborne predators hunt so efficiently. She enlisted falconers who were willing to attach tiny head and back-mounted cameras to their pets as they hunted.

Amador Kane then studied the videos to search for flight strategies the falcons used during their hunts.
What she found is that in most cases, falcons use a technique similar to that of jet pilots. Rather than attacking in a straight line, the birds adapt their flight pattern to keep their target at the center of their sightline, before grabbing it in mid-air. Amador Kane says it's an attack strategy that gives potential prey very little chance, as the falcon goes in for the kill.
In Israel, while biodiversity is in decline, birds abound, including numerous species of raptors and 11 types of falcon. Bird-watchers convene on the Holy Land to observe migrations passing between Africa and Eurasia but the falcons are here year-round.

This is a falcon whose meal failed to escape.Credit: AP



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