November 20, 2007
So, out here at sea, there are many birds that rely on the open ocean for their food- shearwaters, petrels, boobies, and peregrine falcons. Even though they migrate along coastlines, some have said that there is a group that rely on pelagic species for their meals. There are some birds that end up out here by accident- cattle egrets, barn swallows, and even a hooded warbler! I grew up in Connecticut and recognized the hooded warbler right away as it landed on board a few days ago.
The ship acts as a great resting place for birds as they are moving along their way. For example, Boobies will hang out on the jackstaff occasionally throughout the day. There have been as many as 7 at once on top of a very small space. The Cattle Egrets that are out here will probably not survive because they are so far from the coastline. They will hang out onboard as well, walking into the Bosun locker and on the fantail warily watching the activity on the ship.
A drama has unfolded because of the Peregrine Falcon that has taken up residence on the aft mast. This bird is a bird-of-prey which means they are aggressive in their feeding techniques. Basically, they will chase down birds while in flight, capture them, circle a few times around the ship, land on the aft mast, and proceed to rip their catch to shreds as they feed. I have seen this happen repeatedly for the past couple of days. For example, yesterday the falcon had caught and eaten 8 birds by mid-afternoon! Storm petrels were the main prey as was the cute little hooded warbler which had taken up residence on board. There are some remnants of his meals underneath the aft mast in the form of feathers and random bird parts. A little sad, yes, but very cool to watch how graceful the falcon is in getting his meals!
Unbelievably, the cattle egrets have survived so far. At one point yesterday, it was reported that falcon landed near the egret and was scootching closer to it and the egret started pecking at it, grew tired of the constant threat, and flew away!
Marine Science Questions:
1. Where are Peregrine falcons found worldwide? What is their diet?
2. List 4 bird species that migrate along the west coast of the U.S. Where do they go and why?