When falcons swoop through the air and spot a flock of birds, these crafty predators use a special aerial attack strategy to capture prey in midflight, according to a new study.
To gain insight into the hunting practices of falcons, researchers at Haverford College in Pennsylvania outfitted falcons across the United States and Europe with miniature helmet- and backpack-mounted video cameras to record footage of raptor attacks in action.
"The falconers we worked with made custom hoods so that the cameras were snug but didn't impede vision," said study lead author Suzanne Amador Kane, an associate professor of physics at Haverford College. Footage was collected from falcons in Belgium, the Netherlands and Britain, and in states as diverse as Pennsylvania, Arizona and Wyoming. The findings incorporate data from eight different falcons.
The video footage revealed that falcons stalk their prey by maneuvering through the air in such a way that the target appears stationary in their field of view. This lethal attack strategy, described online on Wednesday in the Journal of Experimental Biology, helps falcons effectively intercept their prey without having to tail closely behind their victims.