The word “peregrine” originally meant “foreign or outlandish” but today, the term applies only to the peregrine falcon, the fastest bird in the world. According to the National Geographic, peregrine falcons have reached nearly 245 miles per hour in full flight. That very speed has allowed the hawk to colonize every land mass on earth save New Zealand; its great range, perhaps, accounts for its name as it has turned up in places where it was unexpected. Urban areas are the falcons’ favorite areas, given one of the hawks’ favored prey, pigeons, though peregrines will also take squirrels and rats, and watch out for your chihuahua when walking it in the park. They are readily trained and are favorites in the falconry world.
Unfortunately many bird species are declining worldwide but especially in the USA; among the culprits are climate change that affects bird habitats, as well as the tall glass towers so popular today; birds don’t know about clear glass, and crash into window panes in flight. The peregerine, and its pigeon prey, have not declined significantly, but scientists will keep a close eye on NYC avifauna to monitor and help repopulate the skies with our feathered friends.
I was strolling up Broadway toward Verdi Square at 72nd Street when I spotted this wooden falcon outside the 72nd Street stationhouse. It is an installation by artist Nicolas Haliber, one of a number of bird sculptures in Manhattan scheduled to remain in place through November 2019 as part of the Birds on Broadway project. Other installations include the Red Necked Grebe at Broadway and 64th; the brant (duck) at 96th; double-crested cormorant at 105th; goldeneye duck at 117th; hooded merganser duck at 139th; snowy owl at 146th; and wood duck at 157th.