A couple of Peregrine falcons rode with us down the Carolina coast for about 100 miles, using the ship’s air wake (if there is such a thing) to effortlessly coast back and forth along the lee side of the ship. When they tired of that, they perched on the bowsprit mast. This went on for several hours, and the birds gave us numerous opportunities to photograph them.
What were these falcons doing here, 100 miles or more off the Carolina coast, coasting back and forth along the side of the ship? One passenger let me know that these birds catch fish, so they were probably fishing. I told her they hunt birds almost exclusively, but then had to eat my words when I saw one of the falcons stoop on a flying fish that leaped out of the water to avoid the ship. And it also turns out that we had picked up a few other avian free-loaders in our last port — there were a couple of catbirds (mockingbird relatives) and house sparrows flitting around the topmdecks of the ship. So perhaps the falcons were checking them out as well.
Most likely the falcons were migrating south for the winter, although this species is known to wander, and is probably the most wide-spread bird in the world, ranging from the tundra to the tropics, and absent only from New Zealand. Bon voyage, sea-going Peregrines!