Falcon (Falco Peregrinus)

Proving date: 1997
Proving completed by: Misha Norland & The School of Homeopathy
Common name :

Read full proving: Falcon (Falco Peregrinus)

About the Falcon

The falcon is one of 37 species of raptors in the genus Falco and widley spread around the world ranging in size. The femaile falcon is the much larger of the sexes. They have plumes called ‘flags’ on their legs and a notch in the beak to form a tooth.  The adult falcon has thin tapered wings, enabling it to change direction quickly and fly at high speeds. In the first year of flying they have longer flight feathers that make their configurarion more like a conventional bird, enabling them to learn more specific skills that they need to become hunters as adults. They nest in the holes of trees or on natural ledges and cliffs.

Falcons are the largest genus in the Falconinae subfamily of falconidae, including in another sub family of caracaras. These birds all kill with their beaks, in addition to having exceptional powers of vision. The term used for the male flacon is ‘tercel or ‘tiercel which derives from the latin word tertius equalling the number 3 due to the belief that only one in three eggs hatched a male bird.

Faclons are divided into three groups, the first group kestrels are the smallest and have brown upperside colour, feeding on terrestrial veterbrates and invertebrates.

The second group is slightly larger and are a more elegant species the hobbies, they have dark slate grey plumage, their malar areas are black and they mainly feed on smaller bird.

The peregrine falcon is the third group they are varaiably sized with a black cap and malar, they have grey to slightly brown uppersides. They are more detailed in pattern than hobbies. Feeding on other birds and terrestrial vertebrates.

The falcon symbolises success, victory and the power to rise above a situation. It has links to the sun with its symbolic meaning to the rising sun in Egypt.  It is the superior king of Birds and many Egyptian gods were shown with the head or body of the falcon in place of their own.  In European tradition the falcon represents the hunt and huntsman and was a symbol during the war.  

Due to its incrediable eye sight the falcon represents visionary power along with wisdom, and guardianship. Its visionary power awakens us to lifes purposes, and the meaning of transition and change.  Due the nature of the falcon being a solar creature may carry the meaning that you are highly passionate about something in your life. Ensure that the passion is realility by pursing methodically and strategically as though you are the falcon pursuing its hunt.  The falcon has associated traits of vision, perception, focus, determination, ambition, wisdom and patience if you think and grasp the image in your mind you will see these.

The Peregrine Falcon
The Peregrine Falcon is one of 38 species of the genus Falco, the true falcons, which includes the Kestrel and the Merlin. However, such is the representative importance of the bird that it gave its name to the Falconiformes the whole order of diurnal raptors that includes eagles, hawks, vultures and buzzards. There are several features that distinguish the falcons from other raptors. They do not build nests but lay their eggs in "scrapes", depressions made on cliff ledges, in holes in trees or even on the ground. They have proportionally longer and narrower wings than the eagles and hawks which makes them stronger and faster in the air but less manoeuverable close to the ground. They have a "tomial tooth" a projection on the upper beak with a corresponding notch on the lower one. This serration allows them to kill their prey immediately with a bite to the back of the neck and they do not generally have to contend with a struggling victim as the hawks do.

The Peregrine Falcon is one of the most cosmopolitan of birds. It was found almost everywhere except in the arid tropical deserts, though due to pesticide poisoning they have almost completely disappeared from the Americas east of the Rockies and the Andes.

The adult bird is black/brown on top with a yellowish-white breast with rust-red streaks. The tail has horizontal black stripes. It has distinctive facial markings with a black mask or " moustache" around the eyes. The female weighs up to a kilogram and is up to 50cm in length. The species shows extreme reverse sexual size dimorphism with the male up to a third smaller, 650gms and 38cm. Because of this the male is called a tiercel from the French for a third. The Falcon (female) is more powerful but the Tiercel is often more agile. The feet and talons are disproportionately large and coloured bright yellow, as is the cere, the fleshy area around the beak. This yellow becomes even brighter around the breeding season.

The Falcon's flight takes the form of a series of rapid strokes of the wings followed by a short glide. It usually climbs above its prey and then dives on to it. This dive is called the "stoop" it is variously estimated from a hundred to two hundred miles an hour. Whatever the case may be the Peregrine Falcon is the fastest creature on earth.

The favourite prey are pigeons but the Peregrine will eat almost anything it can catch. It appears to have a preference for variety and seems to go after unusual or interesting birds. If the prey is not killed by the shock of being hit with razor sharp claws moving at more than a hundred miles an hour, it is quickly dispatched by a bite to the neck. It is then taken to a "kitchen" area away from the nest where it is plucked and broken up and either eaten or taken to the nest for the young. The birds usually hunt in the early morning and again in the evening, but if there are young to feed the birds may have to spend most of the day hunting. If there is a surfeit of prey the Falcon will cache it, storing it for later. Almost all the prey, except the feathers, is eaten, but they seem to particularly relish the brains and the Tiercel will often keep the head giving the rest of his catch to his mate or young.

The birds in Britain begin courtship at the beginning of February, with impressive aerial displays. A clutch of 2-4 eggs is laid in April and the female incubates them for 28-33 days. The eyasses (chicks) take about six weeks to develop and for the first few weeks the female stays with them in the nest. This means that the Tiercel has to hunt not only for himself but for the female as well through the incubation period and then for her and the chicks until they are big enough to stay alone while both parents try to find sufficient food for them. The male brings the food close to the nest and passes it to the female in mid air. This can be an impressive display as they both fly vertically up, chest to chest, and pass the food from talon to talon.

The fledged birds stay around the nest for another five or six weeks while they learn to fly and hunt. They often chase their siblings in playful games and the adults will drop dead and then live prey near them teaching the young birds to take their food in mid air and eventually to hunt. Captive bred birds that are released into the wild are able to hunt by instinct, however, birds that have been taught by their parents or have been trained by a falconer are more successful.

When they are able to hunt for themselves they are chased from their parents' territory. However, they are not yet fully proficient in hunting skills and many juveniles die of starvation in their first winter or are not able to breed during the following spring.

Although the birds often wander further afield during the lean winter months they tend to return to the same area to breed. They may have 2 or 3 scrapes which they rotate year by year. Remains at some scrapes have been carbon dated and the results suggest that some good sites have been in use for many centuries.

The name Falcon comes from the Latin falx, a sickle and alludes to the sharp beak that, like the grim reaper, brings sudden death. Peregrine comes from the Latin peregrinus, strange or foreign. This was the term used for non Roman citizens living in Rome and it later became the description applied to pilgrims. Those falcons living in areas where there is plenty of food during the winter tend to remain near their breeding territories, others wander considerable distances and those that summer and breed in the Arctic are fully migratory travelling to Africa and South America during the winter months. Some species of Falcon cross vast oceans in a single flight, a Peregrine has been spotted on a ship more than eight hundred miles from the nearest land.

Horus and The Falcon in Mythology
The Peregrine Falcon has been regarded as a mystic bird and often as a messenger from another world, a stranger in ours. The North American Indians believe it to be a messenger that brings us guidance from the spirit world. This idea partly comes from the fact that it is most active soon after dawn and in the evening twilight. Thus the Ancient Egyptians believed the Falcon brought the Sun in the morning and dragged it away in the evening.

It was in Egyptian mythology that the Falcon found its most powerful expression. Horus, which means "the distant one" or "that which is above", was the most important of the many Falcon Gods in Egyptian Mythology.

Osiris and his sister-wife Isis ruled Egypt and had brought her agriculture, peace and prosperity. Their brother Seth was jealous and overthrew Osiris, cutting him into small pieces that he dispersed and buried all over Egypt. Isis gathered the pieces of her husband and joined them together. In the form of a Kite she covered his body and with her wings beat air into his mouth, animating him long enough for him to impregnate her before he departed to rule over the dead.

Horus, the child of this union, was hidden from his uncle in the papyrus marshes of the Nile Delta and brought up in secret by his mother. Horus is often iconographically depicted as a vulnerable child, either sucking at Isis's breast or sitting on her lap sucking his fingers. He is sometimes referred to as "Horus, the child with his finger in his mouth". This is a rare iconography and the only other major figures often portrayed in such a vulnerable way and so dependent on their mothers are Christ and Eros. The secrecy and danger of Horus's upbringing meant that his mother was continually concerned for his welfare. Spells and cures for ill or injured children called on Isis by comparing the sick child with Horus.

On coming of age Horus, guided by his mother's guile and forensic skills set about persuading the Court of the Gods that the Kingdom of Egypt had been usurped by his Uncle and was rightfully his. As a sky god his right eye was said to represent the Sun and his left the Moon. In one of the numerous contests and incidents between Horus and Seth, the left eye of Horus was shattered.

Through the magic of Thoth the eye was restored to perfection and became the Udjat, a human eye surrounded by the Falcon's facial markings, this became a symbol of soundness and perfection and of protection and purification. It was one of the most potent amulets of protection and is still an immensely powerful icon. The phases of the Moon reflect this shattering into small pieces and healing to wholeness. After a trial that consumed the gods and their rivalries for more than eighty years Horus won his case against Seth and was awarded the Kingship of Egypt. As such, he and the Pharaoh, as God and Ruler of Egypt, were one and the same. The Hieroglyph of the Falcon therefore meant kingship and is always found preceding the name of a Pharoah.

One Egyptian creation myth tells of a world of chaos covered in mud. An unknown hand places a stick into this mud and a Falcon comes and perches on it. At once the land begins to rise out of the sea in the shape of a pyramid, the earth and the waters begin to separate and the world is born. This act of creation was repeated every year in Egypt when the Nile flooded, inundating the land, and then receded leaving fertility and life for the people. The innundation and the reappearance of the first mounds of earth were celebrated throughout the times of the Pharaohs and these celebrations were linked to one of the battles between Seth and Horus. Horus took the form of Solar Disc with the wings of a Falcon and with two Goddesses in the form of Cobras he routed the armies of Seth. This symbol of the winged Solar Disk means simply to "become".

The art of hunting with birds of prey has almost certainly been practised for more than four thousand years. The earliest record of the practice is a Hittite carving of the 13th Century BC in which a child is holding the leash of a jessed Falcon. There is evidence that the Assyrians were keen falconers. The Egyptians, perhaps because of their devotion to Horus, never took up falconry in spite of their close contact with the Assyrians. The Greeks and Romans were also never particularly taken by the sport, though it was popular among the Germanic peoples, the Gauls and the Celts. The sport, as it still is today, was important in the Middle East and during the early Middle Ages the Moorish invasion of Spain met with the Franks who were already interested in Falconry and the art found a new importance that lasted through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance and reached its apogee in the reign of Louis XIII. The French Revolution saw the end of Falconry as the Sport of Kings in Europe.

In the Orient Falconry has a similar history. It was part of the Samurai world in Japan and was widespread in India and Central Asia.

Today only some of the Arabian princes have the resources and the will to carry it on as a Royal Art, but in many countries there remain small numbers of committed falconers and hawkers.

The Two Branches
There are two distinct branches of hunting with birds of prey. Hawking uses short winged birds, the Hawks, which are launched from the fist when the quarry is sighted. Their power and manoeuvrability allow them to catch up with their prey and to capture them on, or close to, the ground. Hawks are used to hunt hares, small animals and game birds, though Eagles can take even larger prey. Falconry uses long winged birds, the true Falcons, that are let slip and climb to a great height before the quarry is put up. They stoop at great speed, taking their prey in mid air. The stoop is so fast that to take the prey on, or close to the ground, would be very dangerous they are therefore only used in hunting birds.

The Hunt
On the whole Falconry takes advantage of the natural instincts of the birds. In Falconry a dog is used to "point" the position of the quarry. The dog stays absolutely still while the Falcon is let slip and given time to climb in a circling motion. When the Falcon is in position, the dog puts up the quarry and the bird stoops on it at great speed, killing or stunning it. The Falcon brings its prey to the ground and mantling, spreading its wings tent-like over its prey, it begins to plume it, pluck its feathers out. The Falconer must approach quickly while the bird is engrossed and if he offers a lure of fresh meat. The Falcon will instinctively take it, offering the falconer a chance to snatch the quarry and catch the bird by its jesses. The Falcon is given a small part of the kill, the "faire courtoisie".

The training of the Falcon is necessary partly to make the bird used to people and the accoutrements of the hunt, but most importantly to give the falconer a way of calling the bird back to him. This is done by creating a Pavlovian response to the sight of the lure and the sound of a particular whistle.

The bird, if a young one or captive bred, is kept in "hack", a state of semi-freedom, until its wings are fully grown. It is always fed by the falconer and wears large hacking bells to prevent it from taking its own prey.

The bird when ready for training is "furnished". Jesses, lengths of supple but hard-wearing leather, are attached to each of the bird's legs. The jesses can be attached by a swivel to a leash or a creance, a long strong cord, to hold the bird or prevent it from flying away. Jesses are worn all the time, even when the bird is in flight.

The bird is left tethered in semi-darkness without food. After a substantial time, when the bird is exhausted and starving, it is offered a morsel of meat on the gloved fist. When it is driven by hunger to eat it will step on to the glove to take the meat. Gradually the bird gets used to coming to the fist to feed and to being carried around. Hawks are always fed on the fist and are called by being shown the gloved hand. Falcons are fed from, and called to, the "lure". This is a horseshoe-shaped piece of padded leather with birds' wings on either side and a ring, to which meat is tied, in the centre. The lure is swung in a circle on a piece of cord. Whenever the bird is offered food a distinctive whistle is sounded.

When the bird is used to people and dogs and to being fed it is introduced to the hood. This is a padded leather hood which fits over the Falcon's head and is tied on with laces. It is kept on the bird when transporting it and during the hunt to prevent the bird from being distracted or becoming over-excited. The training of the bird continues with the Falcon on a gradually lengthening creance and, when the falconer is confident that the bird will return on being called, flying freely. Most of the hunt relies on the instincts of the Falcon but it is possible to train Falcons further. At the court of Louis XIII Falcons were trained in teams of three to hunt the substantially larger Heron. One bird, the "Hausse pied" would chase the Heron into the air where it would be stooped on by a second bird, the "Tombisseur", and brought to the ground by a third, the "Preneur". The resources required to train birds to such a degree are no longer available and Falconry now concentrates on more basic skills.

A bird of prey is never domesticated. The learned response to the lure and the sound of the whistle will usually call back the bird but if it were to fly out of sight or hearing it would be free, miniature radio trackers are now fitted to trained birds so they can be traced.

Falconers keep close track of the weight of their birds. If a bird is too heavy it will not be hungry and so it will not be particularly interested in hunting and will also be less likely to return when called. If it is too light it will be hungry but may be too weak to hunt properly. The experienced falconer will know his birds ideal weight and will feed it so that it is at that weight when he wants to fly it.

Although the Falcon is not the largest or the rarest of the birds of prey, it has always been regarded by falconers as "The Noble Bird" or "The Gentle Bird" and has always been the favourite of the true cognoscenti. It is the fastest and most acrobatic of the falcons, and the one most willing to take on something bigger than itself, but it is also the bird with the most character, the one that seems to be the most human. It is often tame and quite easy to train but it can also be the most obstreperous and difficult.

The Peregrine Falcon and Pesticides
Although the Peregrine Falcon tends to arouse extraordinary devotion in many falconers and in most bird watchers; in some, particularly pigeon fanciers, it causes an equally powerful hatred. Ironically it was this loathing that led to the discovery that the species, and perhaps the planet itself, was in imminent danger of annihilation.

During the Second World War carrier pigeons were still an important means of communication, particularly in bringing messages back to England from occupied France. These birds which flew steadily and fairly slowly were favourite meals for the Peregrine Falcons all along the South Coast of England. Worried that they were losing valuable messages the RAF ordered a massive cull. Over 600 birds and countless eyasses were killed during the war years. Given that there were about 1100 pairs of birds in the entire country before the war and that the cull was concentrated on the South Coast the action must have killed most of the birds in southern England. However, after the war their numbers recovered surprisingly quickly.

In 1961 English pigeon fanciers claimed that the Peregrine Falcon population was getting out of hand and that the bird should lose its protected status. The government commissioned the British Trust for Ornithology to conduct a study on Falcon numbers. Derek Ratcliffe, who has since written the definitive book on Peregrine Falcons, was appointed to conduct a study on the Falcon population. To everyone's surprise he discovered that although numbers had recovered well from the wartime cull, they had begun to fall dramatically in the mid 1950s. He found that the population in 1961 was 68% of the pre-war level and that it fell further to 56% in 1962 and 44% in 1963. When Ratcliffe's findings became known it was discovered that this decline was a world wide phenomenon. Falcons, which had once been numerous were now extinct in the vast forests of Eastern Europe and had completely disappeared from the eastern side of North America.

Tissue studies of dead birds and of the addled or broken eggs that were now so common seemed to indicate that pesticides had had a role in this decline. Organochlorine chemicals had been developed during the war to kill disease carrying insects that could have a devastating effect on the health of troops fighting in the tropics. DDT was the most important of these chemicals and throughout the fifties it was widely used all over the world. Since 1947 pigeon fanciers had dusted their birds with it to kill feather lice. Closer investigation revealed that the falcons had suffered a double blow from pesticides. The newer, more powerful organochlorines such as Aldrin and Dieldrin accumulated in the fat of the birds that the falcons ate, often reaching toxic levels that killed the predators outright. At the same time DDE, a product of DDT breakdown, accumulated in the falcons and interfered with an enzyme that is important in the production of egg shells. The shells became so thin that they often broke under the weight of the brooding mother.

These discoveries led to the restrictions in the use of these pesticides and when Ratcliffe conducted follow up surveys he found numbers almost back up to 1961 levels by 1971 and in 1981 they were up to 90% of pre-war levels. The British Peregrine Falcon does not tend to travel much and there recovery was happily quite rapid. In North America and Eastern Europe the birds tend to migrate, wintering in tropical areas where DDT was still used in substantial quantities. They were completely wiped out. In much of Europe they are still extinct. In North America a program of releasing captive bred birds has led to a population of a few hundred pairs but there is a long way to go. Even in the virgin expanses of the Canadian Arctic falcons are being killed by the DDT still being sprayed in Central and South America, which they and their prey ingest during their winter migrations.

Just as the falcon is at the top of his food chain so man is at the top of his and the fate that almost befell the falcon might yet happen to him. The story of the Peregrine Falcon and pesticides was a major part of the realization that mankind was no longer subject to nature but had in his power the ability to destroy the world in which he lived. This realization led to an awareness of ecology and the birth of the green movement, but it also resulted in a terror for what might happen and a feeling that only we are responsible for whatever happens to us.

Read full proving here:  Falcon (Falco Peregrinus)

Carefree/Careless<br>Floating and flying<br>Giggling and innocence<br>GroupsEmpathy with nature<br>Clarity/Confidence<br>Anger<br>Unfeeling<br>Hemmed in<br>Scorned<br>Guilt<br>Apathy<br>Isolation and despair
Floating and flying
Giggling and innocence
GroupsEmpathy with nature
Hemmed in
Isolation and despair

Proving Themes
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Family: Falconidae
Subfamily: Falconinae
Genus: Falco Linnaeus, 1758

Kingdom Taxonomy
The Falcon's flight takes the form of a series of rapid strokes of the wings followed by a short glide. It usually climbs above its prey and then dives on to it. This dive is called the "stoop" it is variously estimated from a hundred to two hundred miles an hour. Whatever the case may be the Peregrine Falcon is the fastest creature on earth.