This work is divided into nine chapters: 1 - The Falcon Family. 2 - Introducing the Peregrine Falcon. 3 - Peregrine Populations and Distribution. 4 - Homes and Meals. 5 - Breeding Cycle. 6 - Neighbours, Enemies and Friends. 7 - Peregrines and Humans. 8 - Future Threats and Opportunities. 9 - Peregrine Watching. There's also a preface, a bibliography and an index. There are numerous superb colour photographs, some of them depicting peregrines in flight and in pursuit of prey. However, the book lacks both family trees and distribution maps.
The reader will learn a great deal about peregrines from reading this book, which also deals with past, present and future threats to its survival and how these were and can be overcome. More and more peregrines are nesting on tall buildings in cities in different parts of the world including London, Norwich and New York. The various sub species of peregrine are found through all continents except Antarctica. Although these sub species are listed on p. 38, a wonderful opportunity is missed by failing to show their relationships by means of a family tree.
It's unfortunate that, on p. 12, the author begins the second paragraph with the words: 'We start with the dry but necessary subject of scientific classification...' My own experience suggests that quite a number of people find relationships anything but dry. Just as many people are interested in mapping out their family tree, many are also interested in how animals and plants evolved and their relationship with each other. The book would benefit greatly from a stronger first chapter including a family tree diagram illustrating what is known about the evolution of falcons in general and the peregrine in particular.
Readers who are looking for a coffee table type book with a chatty style, lots of observations about peregrines along with first class photography will love this book. However, those interested in a more scientific approach will be disappointed. This is why I'm removing just the one star to express this disappointment. These failings aside, if, like me, you have been privileged to observe peregrines in many locations, you will enjoy owning this book about perhaps the most superb life form ever to have evolved.
on 9 November 2012
For me, the Peregrine Falcon is one of a small group of special birds that I vividly remember seeing for the first time, and I believe it holds a similar significance for most birders around the world. This is a truly global species, being on the checklists of more than 200 countries and thankfully making a comeback from decline in many of them.
This is the third in a series of well-illustrated short monographs that aim to give the reader an overview of the subject without getting bogged down in the detail, and previous subjects have been the Kingfisher and Barn Owl. Patrick Stirling-Aird has studied birds of prey in Scotland for over 25 years, and is Secretary of the Scottish Raptor Study Group.
The first chapter deals somewhat unnecessarily with the Falconiformes as a group and the genus Falco in particular. Thankfully much of this information does relate quite well to Peregrine Falcons but I'd suggest the publisher rethinks the need for this in future volumes.
The author recognises 19 races of the species, choosing to lump Barbary Falcon, although almost everyone (except HBW) splits it as a full species. There are eight chapters describing aspects of the Peregrine's life. Distribution is described in some detail for Europe and North America, where the species has increased greatly since the 1970s. Indeed Peregrines now have "Green" status in the UK and are nesting in very public places while in the USA a reintroduction programme has had impressive results.
The two longest chapters cover feeding and the breeding cycle. Food items from across the species' range are discussed and compared - with 137 different bird species having been taken in Britain. These actually include other Peregrines in a small number of cases! Most aspects of this well-studied bird's life are covered - but this is not designed to be an in-depth assessment, and so there is little detail. The author draws on his own wealth of experience with Peregrines in the Scottish highlands but I would have been interested to read a bit more about urban nesting which really is where the population increases are now occurring.
In particular this book has a very good selection of 80 high quality images which are used to great effect and (as with the previous titles in this series) make it very good value for money and an enjoyable read.