Peregrine Falcon at Clingmans Dome

“The peregrine falcon is the swiftest, most adept animal I have ever seen. It is worth noting that, like many bird, the falcon’s bones are hollow. Travel light.” — Ethan Hawke

Today, I completed my first birding program at Clingmans Dome. It was a general birding program but also created awareness on the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus). The peregrine falcon is the fastest animal in the world. It is a very popular bird in the Smokies, but after 1940, the use of pesticides like DDT made the peregrine falcon abandon all nesting grounds not only in the Smokies, but all eastern United States. In 1980, ornithologists released a pair of breeding adults in our national park in the hopes that they would nest and breed again in the park. And with luck, they did! We now know there are nests in Alum Cave, a bluff in the park you can actually hike to. If you stand there for long enough, you may spot a peregrine falcon entering or exiting a nest.

I began my program by setting up a table with bird artifacts, images, and fun things that the kids and adults could see and feel.

After setting up my peregrine falcon table, I began speaking with visitors and calling their attention towards my birding station. I would talk about owls, our bird diversity in the park, or the amounts of birds that migrate just to nest in the park. Either way, once I got their attention, I would tell them about our peregrine falcon and later tell them what bird they are. I would use a ruler to measure their “wingspan” and compare it to the known wingspan of a bird listed in the ruler. I will copy what I would say about the Peregrine Falcon:

“The peregrine falcon is the fastest animal in the world. Notice how I said animal and not bird. It likes to prey on smaller birds, what it does is look for them and once it spots one, it will fly up and start diving down. Reaching speeds of up to 180 mph, once it’s diving, it’ll use its claws to hunt its prey and eat it. It was a very popular bird in the Smokies, but after 1940, the use of pesticides like DDT made the peregrine falcon abandon all nesting grounds not only in the Smokies, but all eastern United States. In 1980 though, ornithologists released a pair of breeding adults in our national park in the hikes that they would nest and breed again in the park. And with luck, they did! We now know there are nests in Alum Cave, a bluff in the park you can actually hike to. If you stand there for long enough you may spot a peregrine falcon entering or exiting a nest. And for some reason, every time they enter the nest they will relieve themselves onto the ground, so you’ll notice a peregrine falcon is on top of you by the worst way.”

Here I’ll drop some Alum Cave bluffs where the peregrine falcon nest.

I believe the idea of having pictures and not only facts for the visitors to hear helped a lot in getting them interested. 

I can say with a heart full of excitement and happiness that the program was a success. The kids were very happy to know what bird they were and to learn about the fastest animal alive. Some of them even wanted pictures with me and so I did. I am glad to see our visitors more interested in the birds that fly over our heads and hopefully they will start birding in the park.

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.