Falcon-mounted cameras capture stunning aerial hunts in HD

A group of researchers led by professor Suzanne Amador Kane got it into their heads to study just how flocks of birds react when being pursued by predators. They looked to the archives to gain a basic understanding of the aerial dogfights that ensue when falcons attack crows. Their search came up empty.

Even though people have been hunting with falcons for centuries, taking a good scientific look at falcon hunting tactics never crossed the team's collective minds. It was a serious gap in their field of study, and one which would have to be filled before they could properly understand the reactions of prey animals. Ultimately, the group did what any self-respecting research group would have done: they strapped tiny camera-carrying backpacks and helmets to as many falcons as they could get their hands on.

Falcon owners, hearing of the study, practically jumped at the chance to see through their pet's eyes as they completed a hunt. Thanks to HD video capture from GoPro cameras, a number of hunts were captured in both stills and video.

The falcons were found to utilize pursuit tactics similar to those employed by bats and dragonflies as they hunt. The predator adjusts their speed so that the prey animal seems motionless in flight. This lets the predator choose their moment of attack more easily and also helps them predict their prey's every move. The aerial tactics work remarkably well, as you'll hardly see a miss in the video taken during the study. (Warning: the video below contains footage of a falcon ramming head first into other birds and prey.)

Experimental Biology, via LiveScience

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