New research into the hunting techniques of Peregrine falcons shows why the birds travel as fast as Formula One cars to catch their prey. Peregrine falcons reach breakneck speeds and dive down onto their prey before capturing it.
Research reveals that they're able to hunt better at faster speeds.
Peregrine Falcon Stoop
An international team of researchers from the University of Groningen and Oxford University used computer simulations to determine why peregrine falcon's used a hunting maneuver called the stoop. The stoop is a hunting technique in which peregrine falcons dive onto their prey at speeds over 200 miles per hour.
Peregrine falcons are described as the fastest animal on Earth but it's not due to their flight speed, its due to the speed that they travel when they use the stoop. Research shows that the maneuver wouldn't work at slower speeds.
Previous research on the peregrine falcon stoop showed that while it was diving, it employed the same maneuvering as attack missiles. What scientists couldn't figure out was why the falcon would put itself through such a maneuver to capture prey.
For the study published in PLOS Computational Biology, researchers used computer simulations to shed light on the hunting techniques of peregrine falcons. Researchers input the aerodynamics of bird flight, how the falcon's moved their wings, how they able to see the prey, the delay before it is able to attack, and the falcon's ability to launch itself towards prey like a missile.
Researchers ran the simulation millions of times. Each time they changed the falcon's attack strategy. Their findings show that the falcons are able to maximize their chance of capturing agile prey because the higher speeds allowed them to have better maneuvering. The higher speeds allow them to have greater turning force and outmaneuver the prey.
Each simulation featured a peregrine falcon attempting to capture common starlings. Researchers were able to figure out different techniques for evading the falcon's attack. If the peregrine falcon dove straight down it would have to dive at around 95 miles per hour. To be able to capture a starling that was evading it, the peregrine falcon would need to stoop at a speed of around 225 miles per hour.
Scientists are now using the same simulation to figure out why other birds of prey also have specialized hunting techniques. They want to study why each kind of bird specializes in a different type of prey. Researchers will also look into the best way that prey can evade capture by the predators.