Soaring flight in the Eleonora's Falcon (Falco eleonorae)
Eleonora's Falcon (Falco eleonorae) breeds in the Mediterranean region and is highly adapted for catching small birds on passage migration between Eurasia and their African winter quarters, which they feed their young. We studied gliding flight behavior of Eleonora's Falcon at a breeding colony located on a small island southwest of Sardinia, Italy. Gliding and soaring flight performance was measured using an optical range finder and evaluated against flight mechanical theory. The male falcon does the majority of hunting and usually sets off from the colony to hunting areas located at high altitude over the open sea to catch prey. To lower the cost of transport and maximize the energy gain from hunting, we show that the birds use vertical winds for soaring when available. The occurrence of rising air changes with wind direction. At north-northwesterly winds (on-shore), slope lift is available outside the nesting cliffs, and at south-southeasterly winds thermals that form over the island drift out over the sea. Our observations demonstrated the flexibility of flight behavior in relation to the wind situation, and birds thereby make full use of available soaring conditions.
- Biological Sciences
- ISSN: 0004-8038