Another Record Peregrine Falcon Count!
Once again, the raptor migration monitoring project based at Curry Hammock – in the Florida Keys – documents more Peregrine Falcons (Falco peregrinus) during a single season than anywhere else on Earth.
The Florida Keys Hawkwatch surpassed its own world record by the end of count-day on October 22, 2013 after tallying 3,840 migrating Peregrine Falcons for the season. The count continues through the first days of November, and there is no telling what the final total for the species will be. As it stands, the “PEFA” tally is at 3,956 (end of Oct 26 count-day)!
If you think you have heard this story before, it is because the Florida Keys Hawkwatch broke the documented world record during the 2012 season, when the project tallied a total of 3,836 Peregrines, surpassing the then-highest seasonal total of 3,219 from Costa Rica (Kekoldi, 2004). During 2012, FKH also tallied the highest daily count ever recorded for the species, with 651 on October 10, 2012. While no daily record was reached this year, Peregrines started moving through in high numbers earlier than average. On September 27 this season, we tallied 429, the fourth highest daily count since 1999. Above, a young Peregrine Falcon photographed by Kerry Ross; below, photo by Rachel Smith – both were taken from the count site this season.
As the video above illustrates, Peregrine Falcons are not the easiest birds to count, since they can move through at great velocities and at very high altitudes. It requires a lot of work and coordination to detect, identify and tally them before they are long past the count site. This season has been dictated primarily by winds out of the south and the east, and we have experienced many flights by raptors pushed far towards Florida Bay, northwest from the count side. The Middle Keys are renowned for offering plenty of opportunities at seeing perched falcon in the fall, especially during the mornings and late afternoons. Below, left, is a photo by Jeff Bouton of a young falcon perched on a bare snag; to the right, is a capture by Susan Sorensen of a Peregrine migrating low along the coast.
At top left, an adult male Peregrine perched on a snag along the ocean side at Long Key State Park during early morning. This bird was quite a small “tiercel” compared to some of the large females that were flying by that morning, trying to knock it off its perch. The bird did its best at standing tall, puffing out its chest and flaring its “sideburns.” Top right, a migrating adult Peregrine photographed by Eran Brusilow during this year’s Florida Keys Birding & Wildlife Festival. Bottom left, a young falcon by Rachel Smith, photographed at Curry Hammock during this season’s hawkwatch. Bottom right, a young “PEFA” perched along the coast, by Rafael Galvez / Leica V-Lux 4.
The 2013 Peregrine Falcon “high-count” would not have been possible without tremendous commitment from several individuals. Rachel Smith and Kerry Ross are doing an incredible job day after day at the hawkwatch; we could not be more thrilled about having their talents once again as part of this project. Charles and Colleen Caudill – we could not have done it without their invaluable help; Tedor Whitman is an enduring ally; Jennifer and Gabe Cenker came down to share the excitement of another record breaking (and perfect timing!); and my personal gratitude to Michelle Davis for helping me out with the prolonged flights of October 22.
Still, the count continues!