Words Amatullah Y.
Header Credits Amena T. (@_at_design_)
I love the feel of the wind under my wings, I love soaring high and fast, darting towards the ground before sharply sweeping off, my talons scraping the water of the bay.
I am a peregrine falcon, I am one of the fastest flying birds on earth and I love the thrill of a good 300km/hr dive when I am after my prey. I call New York City my home.
My mother came from the forests, she loved her home but it got cut down and she had to adapt. She moved to New York City, startled with the initial hustle and bustle but quickly learning the tricks of the trade. “New York is sprawling with skyscrapers youngling,” she would tell me, “that’s why you have to find the highest perches, the gargoyles and the poles because we have been blessed with two very powerful things, excellent vision and the sleekest flying body of all birds.” She loved preening me, making sure my wings were strong enough when I was smaller before testing me with small short jumps from skyscraper to skyscraper. Mother learnt by flying from tree to tree, lots of soft branches to break her fall, that’s why she had to make sure I was strong enough, because there is nothing below but a sheer drop into a tarmaced, metropolitan jungle.
I am now four years old, my feathers have matured and my skill has been honed. I am one of thousands of peregrines in the sky, and my prey are pigeons.
Pigeons are pesky, smart blighters. I like to use the hot drafts from the warm concrete to gain the altitude I need to seek and chase my meal; they seek the refuge of flying low and sticking near the ground. We can swoop and swerve, but we are not the best at pulling up from a sharp dive and they use that to their advantage. They fly low, but for them it’s each pigeon for himself, but for us, the city has taught us to work as a team.
There we go, there is a whole flock of them right near the square. We deftly swoop in, the air rushing past my feathers as I pull them as close to my body as I can. One of us reaches them first causing them to fly up in fear. The chase has begun! Left, right, glide, swerve, duck and fold. We chase the lone pigeons and push them towards the bay. Once there, the odds will be in our favour.
The bird continues to fly close to the ground until it reaches open water. Mother taught me to preen and oil my feathers, flying close to the water will not hurt me! My meal – no, don’t scoff, that’s the kind of attitude one needs to make a pigeon their meal – is tiring, but flying as though it’s life depends on it, because it does. A wonderful catch, it’s like an improvised dance, fluid and quick, that’s the best kind of food. It tries swerving up, but my wings are wider, perfect for a quicker ascent. It twists around me, evading my stretched talons, twists again, but I luckily anticipated it, grabbing it by binding my talons around its folded wings and torso. Success.
I fly back to my perch, carrying my heavy meal with me up into the skies to savour it’s delicious meat. Good food means strength and strength allows me to have the best perch in the city, because real estate is as tough on us as it is on you in New York City.
This account is written using evidence gathered by BBC during the filming of Planet Earth II. New York City is home to the greatest number of wild peregrine falcons in the world.