Peregrine falcon on roof of brick building

I’ve written before about the surprising and sometimes lovely variety of forms that the simple Rock Pigeon can take, and how much fun there is in simply through sorting through a flock – like the one that inevitably gathers around the dumpsters of the grocery store a block from my apartment and wages a battle of attrition with the paint job of every car that parks on the street. I even understand, though I don’t condone, the urge that drive people to heap birdseed and stale bread on the sidewalks for them.

But appreciating the humble “flying rat” doesn’t mean that when a Peregrine Falcon shows up I’m not rooting for that bad boy.

The drama happened as I took the dog for his morning constitutional. We were shuffling and snuffling along when the rush of scores of pigeons taking off in a hurry swept by on the other side of the street. I look up instinctively but didn’t spot the reason until he was already pulling up again, prey in talons.

Even without binoculars it was pretty evident what I was dealing with. This was no Merlin, not with a fat dumpster-fed pigeon in his talons as he climbed easily to the corner of a nearby school building. Back at home with Swarovskis in hand, I confirmed what I already knew by scoping out a heavily helmeted head. A couple of crows even showed up for a handy size comparison. Mr. Peregrine Falcon, too busy plucking and eating to worry about bystanders, stuck around long enough for me to play paparazzi (badly, as is my wont), give up, and hand the camera over to Chuk for the shots you see here. A flurry of feathers drifted down as he prepped his meal.


The pigeon feathers were barely settled when an older woman stopped on the sidewalk, pulled a bread bag from an oversize purse, and dumped crumbs on the sidewalk. The surviving pigeons gathered, slowly at first but surely, around her offering. She never looked up to see the falcon four floors above her head.

Written by Carrie
Carrie Laben, after years of writing and birding in New York, moved to Montana to pursue her two great passions more effectively. She recently graduated with an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of Montana in Missoula. When she is not cranking out essays and speculative fiction stories, or wandering around on mountains failing to see the birds she is looking for, she is likely to be drinking one of the many fine local microbrews or attending a potluck with something from the local farmer’s market in hand. On Mondays from 3 to 3:30 Mountain Time you can find her answering questions about birds on live chat at