We are fascinated by Peregrine Falcon. One of the most widespread animals on the planet, it occurs on every continent except Antarctica and is found in mountains, river valleys, cities, and other habitats.
Banding and satellite research has shown that Peregrines that breed in North America typically migrate to South America for winter. A few North American falcons, however, have made their way across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe.
One bird, banded in Canada’s Northwest Territories in August 1980, landed on a ship traveling from Mexico to Spain in fall 1981, flew off two days before the boat docked, and was later found dead northwest of Lisbon, Portugal.
In July 1987, a falconer in Brighton, England, captured a Peregrine that had been banded a year earlier in New Brunswick, approximately 2,835 miles away.
Most impressive is a female banded as a hatch-year bird in September 1993 on the Wisconsin shore of Lake Superior. In April 2008, her lower leg (tarsus) and metal band — and nothing else — were discovered on a mountain in southern Switzerland, more than 4,360 miles from where she was hatched.
Thomas C. J. Doolittle of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and colleagues report in the Journal of Raptor Research that no evidence of human intervention was found.
“Human intervention is always a possible explanation for the recovery we report,” they write. “However, it’s also plausible that this Peregrine Falcon (#987-91907) reached Switzerland without human assistance, even though longitudinal raptor migrations are rare and the paucity of Peregrine Falcon transcontinental band records suggests that these migrations are an anomaly.”
The remains constituted the easternmost recovery in Europe of a Peregrine Falcon banded in North America.
Read it yourself:
Thomas C. J. Doolittle, Daniel D. Berger, and Julie F. Van Stappen (2013) Easternmost Recovery in Europe of a Peregrine Falcon Banded in North America. Journal of Raptor Research: March 2013, Vol. 47, No. 1, pp. 75-76. Abstract.
A version of this article appeared in the June 2013 issue of BirdWatching magazine.