Part naturalist exploration, part adventure story, On the Wing follows Alan Tennant in his pursuit of the peregrine falcon. One falcon in particular, to be precise, named Amelia. Teaming up with George, a World War II vet and his beat up Cessna, Alan follows Amelia via radio signal from the Texas barrier islands, north to the Arctic and back south again through Mexico, Belize and the Caribbean. Alan and George run into their fair share of trouble and excitement, both moving and funny in a story that will quickly make you part of the experience.
Peregrine falcons can travel faster than any other animal on earth, reaching speeds of up to 200 mph when making steep dives. They are prodigious migrators (the subject of Alan’s research) sometimes traveling thousands of miles, and can be found on every continent on earth except for Antarctica or in deserts, high mountaintops, polar regions and, interestingly, New Zealand.
The most common prey for falcons is small birds such as pigeons and ducks, caught by disabling their victim in mid-flight (that speedy dive aims for a wing of the bird they’re pursuing). Mating for life, they nest on steep cliffs and, fairly commonly now, on skyscrapers. Peregrine falcons nearly disappeared from North America in the 50s and 60s because of pesticide use, but have made a strong recovery with the help of protections provided by the Endangered Species Act.
You can see these incredible birds right here in the Quad Cities; a nesting pair – Scorpio and P/D – are occupying a specially built nesting box located on the Mid American building in downtown Davenport (our own version of a skyscraper) If you’re not lucky enough to spot them in flight, check out WQAD-TV’s Falcon Cam for some live, up-close shots of the happy couple as well as links to more information about peregrine falcons and this pair in particular.