Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Review: Urban Peregrines

There are certain birds that everybody seems to love, or at least have a fascination of. One of those birds is the Peregrine Falcon. Known for its speed and hunting prowess, it brings awe to just about anyone who is fortunate to encounter one.

The book Urban Peregrines by Ed Drewitt takes a look into the lives of these fascinating birds in an alternative habitat – the urban (and suburban) areas of Europe. Drewitt does also touch upon other areas, including the United States, but the examples and anecdotes are primarily from Europe, and mostly Great Britain.

Overall the book is well written and has a good flow as if Drewitt were having a personal, but well-informed, conversation with you about Peregrine Falcons. He has years of experience researching these incredible birds, and he is very enthused to share that knowledge with you. Plus, there are plenty of gorgeous (and sometimes gory for the sake of telling the truth) photos included to keep you visually stimulated.

He starts by giving you the basics of the Peregrine – explaining its features and characteristics that make it well suited to high speed pursuits of prey. The overall adaptability of these birds have allowed them to thrive not only on wild landscapes and cliffs where it occurs naturally, but also in cities and towns that are populated by more people than wildlife. In some regions, there are extremely high percentages of peregrines nesting in urban areas, like Germany. This benefits the peregrines and researchers alike as the researchers can more easily monitor these birds, which then means deterring predators.

Drewitt takes you through the lifecycle of the peregrine in detail, going over some interesting facts about breeding behavior, including cooperative breeding in which older male offspring sometimes stay with the parents to help rear newer chicks. He also goes over their hunting behaviors, which surprisingly includes nocturnal hunts. Also, the author makes the reader aware of the conflict between some individuals, such as pigeon fanciers (those that breed and raise racing pigeons) and peregrines.

Although I found much of what Drewitt had to say as very interesting and informative, as a general audience reader, I also found that there was a lot of details in the many anecdotes that didn’t really didn’t add to my understanding. It was sometimes a bit distracting. I think if I were a budding peregrine researcher or environmental educator, then this information would have been more relevant to me. The section on learning how to set up a peregrine watch and ringing (banding) them would be great for anyone who wants to start up research on peregrines or other birds of prey.

A male and female (larger) sitting on a cathedral
Overall, I think the author’s enthusiasm and dedication for these magnificent creatures shines through. He highlights a bird that is fascinating, sharp, and handsome, and makes the science of them accessible to the public. And I’m always for revealing behaviors and attitudes that that we can work on in order to make more conscientious decisions that affect conservation. Generally, it seems most people embrace the peregrine falcon for the awesomeness that it is, and Urban Peregrines teaches us more about them and how we can live in harmony with them.

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