Gyrfalcon Antics In Cape May

Some may recall from last year that I blogged about John Wood and The Raptor Project his bird program that he does at Cape May. One of the highlights is that he flies his white gyrfalcon out on the beach. He flies to a lure (an object with some meat attached to a long line that he lassos overhead to get the bird to fly down.

This year, things went a little different. Saturday, as blogged earlier, it was wind and rain, but John flew the falcon anyway. Apparently the bird decided, "screw this" and instead flew after one of the many wild pigeons and to find a nice, warm place to eat. So, off the bird went, it nailed a pigeon and flew out of site. John, being a wise and experienced falconer, had a radio telemetry unit on the bird and was able to track it to town. After the bird flew from sight, it found a shoe store with doors open and landed in the store with a decapitated pigeon and began to rip it apart. Imagine that you know nothing of birds and you are absorbed in shoe shopping when a bird the size of a red-tail, but all white flies in with a headless pigeon--out of nowhere...needless to say, it caused a stir. The shop owner called 911 and Animal Control (I think Animal Control might have given John a hard time about his falcon killing a pigeon--apparently, they didn't know that pigeons are non native and not under any protection in the US). Anyway, John returned to the convention center with his bird safe in hand and with a headless pigeon.

He tried to take the gyrfalcon out Sunday and as soon as he and the white bird emerged from the convention center, the pigeons were off, instantly recognizing the bird from the day before.

John tried to get the falcon to focus on the lure, the bird was having none of it. It tasted pigeon the day before and it wanted more. You can see the bird in the above photo ignoring John and focusing on the fat, winged, tasty delights circling on the other side of the beach.

No matter what John tried, the falcon just really wanted pigeon and kept trying to take off after them. He opted not to fly the bird and risk losing it in town again. Smart move, but still pretty to see the bird in a beach setting.