On Thursday, Susan and I were eating a lovely lunch on the rooftop garden of a 20-story building in midtown Manhattan (we were attending another work function, like our trip to the movies the week before). I was entirely focused on the scrumptious meal (thank you for the picnic basket, Natalie's Restaurant at Camden Harbour Inn), but Susan was observant enough to notice an adult Peregrine falcon swoop in and land on the building ledge, about 15 feet from us. It seemed like the beautiful bird was responding to the music—some wacky stuff with repetitive screeches. Click on the video above to gauge for yourself. Thanks to my clumsy thumbs, I accidently shut off the recorder just as the bird calls in the very last second of the clip.
The Peregrine falcon nearly went extinct two decades ago, but pulled back from the brink due to federal restrictions on pesticide use (namely DDT, which causes egg shells to thin) and successful captive breeding programs. While the birds are often found in open habitats like grasslands forests, they do also frequent skyscrapers.
I went to our resident bird expert, Kenn Kaufmen, to get his opinion on whether the Peregrine was drawn by the music. Here’s what he had to say:
I can't tell for sure that it's responding to the music, and if it is, that would be somewhat surprising; these open-country falcons seem to be a lot more visual than aural in their perceptions of the world. But it might well have keyed in on the fact that this music was distinctly different from the usual din above the streets. I played the video multiple times and I couldn't make out the sound of the bird calling back, at least not for sure, but I wouldn't rule it out.
Even if the bird isn't directly responding to the music, it certainly isn't being driven away by it, either. And it does give the impression of being distinctly aware of the music.
One thing is certain: If the Peregrine was attracted to the song, we have very different tastes in music.