Sunday, April 19, 2009

Gavin the Falconer

This is Show Family 2 reporting live from Lakehills, Texas:
This week, we met a really cool kid named Gavin. Gavin is a falconer. Here is Gavin with his mom and his sister.A falconer is a person who trains falcons or hawks for hunting. Gavin spent many hours learning lots of different things on top of having to apprentice or train under someone else in order to become a falconer. There are three falconers in his state that fly long wings like peregrine falcons. He and his father are two of those, so that means there is only one other falconer besides them. Gavin has his own falcon that he has trained. It took him many months to train his falcon and he is still training him to be better and better at hunting.

Falconry is one of the oldest forms of hunting and is often used together with hunting with horses and dogs. One of the differences between hunting with a horse or a dog and hunting with a falcon is the horse and dog are domesticated animals and the falcon is a wild animal. Falconry is the oldest field sport known to mankind.
Gavin also told me a bunch of neat facts about falcons. Here are some facts about these amazing birds:

Falcons have incredible eyesight. They are believed to be able to spot a pigeon from over five miles under ideal conditions. They are the swiftest of the birds of prey. In a dive, they can top speeds of 200 miles an hour. This makes them the fastest moving creatures on earth. It has been calculated that as a peregrine falcon comes out of a dive, and is straightening out for horizontal flight, it is pulling around 25G. Humans, on average, can tolerate 5-6G well.They are at the top of the food chain, so adults have no natural predators. The female is the boss of the house, so the male is cautious around her.How can these birds fly so fast? It is because of how they are built.

Falcons are very streamlined. They have pointed wings with slim, stiff, unslotted feathers. Because of this, they have almost zero resistance when flying. They have especially strong flight muscles that allow them to fly fast. They have a large, strong heart and ultra efficient lungs and air sacs. Everybody knows how difficult it gets to breathe when you're walking in a heavy storm. You have to turn your head to be able to breath. The falcon does not walk in the storm, it dive-bombs at 350 k/hour. Breathing would be absolutely impossible without special adaptions.The air pressure from a 200 mph (320 km/h) dive could possibly damage it's lungs, but small bony tubercles in a falcon's nostrils guide the shock waves of the air entering the nostrils (compare intake ramps and inlet cones of jet engines), enabling the bird to breathe more easily while diving by reducing the change in air pressure.To protect their eyes, the falcons use their nictitating membranes (third eyelids) to spread tears and clear debris from their eyes while maintaining vision.

Let's look at the lungs on a bird a bit closer. When a person breathes, air flows into its lungs and back out again. Bird lungs operate quite differently from ours. Instead of inhaling and then reversing flow when exhaling, birds have a clever lung design that permits them to circulate air in a single direction continuously.

Birds lungs with diagram and explanation

I can see why Gavin would want to work with such a fascinating animal!More resources on falcons:

Live webcams of Peregrine Falcons


Videos and slideshows , Video of falcon , Pigeon vs Falcon video , Facts and video clip

Coloring Pages

Falcon head , Peregrine Falcon , Another Peregrine Falcon Page , Falcon

Audio: A to Z Mysteries: The Falcons Feathers

Raptor, A Kid's Guide to Birds of Prey , List of books for Young Readers , The Malted Falcon: A Chet Gecko Mystery

Facts and other Fun

National Geographic Kids Info on Peregrine Falcon (Has video, e-card and printable)

Birds of Prey Facts for Kids , Peregrine Falcon Facts , Facts and info on how to adopt a Peregrine Falcon


Raptor Rescue Kids Games , Fierce Fliers Game , Peregrine Falcon Games

Arts and Crafts:

How to Make an Origami Falcon

Other Fun Stuff

Experiment related to Peregrine Falcon and DDT , Quiz on Falcons , Lesson plans on Falcons , Lesson Plans on Birds of Prey , Science Lesson Plan on Raptors , Unit Study with Falcon , Birds of Prey Unit Study ideas

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