James Heng chanced upon an exciting avian event between 12.50-2.00 pm on 30th October 2006. He was going to have his lunch around a transmission tower beside the Woodlands Fire Station when he noticed the presence of a Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus).
The bird was on the fifth platform of the larger transmission tower and was having its lunch. It had a black bird in its talons, limp and obviously dead. James narrowed it down to a possible Asian Glossy Starling (Aplonis panayensis), or even a myna.
The falcon was perched on the railing of the tower, with the prey held tightly in its talons. It was furiously tearing away bits of feathers and skin from the belly of the dead bird. Within minutes it got to the meat and was feeding off bits and pieces.
Then it started to rain. As the rain became heavier, the falcon stopped eating and looked around. James wondered: “…if it was because it needed rest, to let the food digest or to cover the prey’s innards to prevent the cavity from being flooded over by the heavy rain?”
When the rain got lighter the bird resumed feeding on the carcass. This time it was feeding at a leisurely pace.
In about an hour the bird had completed eating the prey, including the innards. The empty shell of the prey was discarded, and got lodged on the railing one floor below.
Satiated, the falcon began to casually preen itself, looking around as it did so. The rain had by then stopped.
James had only a pair of binoculars with him. No camera, so he missed the chance of recording the action. He did not have his scope with him, thus by the end of the hour his neck, shoulders and forearms were aching.
Tired, aching but exhilarated by the event, he realised that although the falcon finished its lunch, he still had not started on his.
“Like us, this bird takes around an hour for his lunch break. I wonder if it does a siesta?” wondered James.
PS: Our bird specialist R. Subaraj has this to say: “Peregrine Falcons are mainly migrants that turn up during the winter months, sometimes wintering at a site. We also get a few records during the non-migratory season and based on colouration and size, these birds are believed to be visitors of the resident race from some place nearby, like Malaysia. These falcons are often found on transmitter towers, including Bukit Batok, Sentosa, Ubin and even Fort Canning. These structures offer a good vantage point, feeding and roosting perch.”
Input by James Heng, images by Chan Yoke Meng.