It only weighs about two pounds, but when its eyes lock on its prey, it can slice through the air at 242 miles per hour (Harpole). Being the fastest animal on the planet, the peregrine falcon is without a doubt one of the most awesome creatures. In order to achieve such speeds, it has to be equipped with certain abilities.
- Body Shape. When the peregrine falcon begins to dive, it naturally pulls its body into a perfectly aerodynamic shape, which looks kind of like a backward arrowhead (Pontz, Figure 4). Once it is in this position, it bullets towards its prey at over 200 mph. Amazingly, testing has revealed that in high altitude air, a peregrine falcon could theoretically reach speeds of 174 meters per second, which is a blistering 389 mph (Tucker 403). It’s one thing to go fast, it’s another to control it. No problem here either. All the peregrine has to do is slightly alter its body shape and it can move side-to-side, slow down, speed up, or whatever is needed to hit the target and keep itself safe.
- Feathers. When reaching such speeds, it wouldn’t take much to pluck out some feathers. For the peregrine, its feathers are extra long to make it more aerodynamic, but also particularly stiff to handle the wind speed. But it gets even cooler. Only in the last year or so have scientists discovered that the peregrine falcon sticks up some small feathers in the center of its back while diving (Pontz, Figure 16). These little feathers essentially cut through the air at the point on its back where it would normally meet the most air resistance and slow it down. With its body shape and feathers perfectly designed, the peregrine falcon is literally built for speed.
- Breathing. If you have ever experienced a strong wind blowing in your face while running, you’ve probably noticed that it becomes much harder to breathe. Now imagine trying to breathe while having a consistent 200 mph wind in your face. For just about any other bird, it would make it impossible to breathe and would possibly even cause lung damage from the pressure (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources). However, the peregrine is perfectly equipped with a little structure called a tubercle, which is a little round cone structure in the center of its nostril (See Picture Below). When diving, this little structure slows the air that comes into the nostril and allows the peregrine to breathe easy, even at 200 mph.
- Eyes. All of this speed is pointless if the falcon can’t see its prey from a very far distance away. Peregrine falcons have very large eyes with vision about eight times better than humans (Utah Division Of Wildlife Resources). This means they can spot their prey at about 6 miles away before they go on the attack. In order for our eyes to be comparable to the peregrine’s, they would need to be 3 inches across and weigh 4 pounds each (Hay).
All of these features together make the peregrine falcon one of the most incredible predators on earth and certainly the fastest. Each of these abilities must be in place for the peregrine to hunt and live. Whenever I come across an animal with superior abilities like this, it always raises objections in my mind towards evolution. For example, how did the peregrine know to evolve all of these abilities? And even if it were able to do so with million of years of slight changes, where is the undeniable, documented proof of this occurring?
But seeing an animal likes this raises even bigger questions. Since humans are at the top of the evolutionary scale, why don’t we have any of these awesome abilities? It would be very useful to have the eyes and flying ability of the peregrine. It would be wonderful to be able to breathe underwater like a shark. It would be very handy to be able to regenerate entire limbs like some reptiles. It would be awesome to smell like a dog, hear like an elephant, or at the very least have the strength of the gorilla, who is supposedly a very close evolutionary “relative.” But we don’t have any of these abilities and there is no documented evidence or proof to show how and why we suddenly lost them.
The holes are too big and too many to tolerate in evolution. While certainly there is a level of faith needed, the plethora of evidence around us points to a divine Creator. We’ve never observed any animal changing it’s kind (Genesis 1:24-25). Everywhere we turn we see design, order, and reproductive consistency. Psalm 104:24 states, “O LORD, how many are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all; the earth is full of Your possessions.” God has surrounded us with evidence of His power and might. May we have the eyes to see it, the softness of heart to accept it, and the mouth to praise Him for it.
- Harpole, Tom. “Falling With The Falcon.” Air & Space Magazine, March 2005. http://www.airspacemag.com/flight-today/falling-with-the-falcon-7491768/?all&no-ist
- Hay, Anne. “My Faborite Interesting Facts About Peregrine Falcons.” Buffalo Bill Center of the West. October 25, 2013. http://centerofthewest.org/2013/10/25/my-favorite-interesting-facts-about-peregrine-falcons/
- Pontiz, Benjamin, Anke Schmitz, Dominik Fischer, Horst Bleckmann, & Christoph Brücker. “Diving-Flight Aerodynamics of a Peregrine Falcon.” PLOS. February 4, 2014. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0086506#abstract0
- Tucker, V.A. “Gliding Flight: Speed & Acceleration of Ideal Falcons During Diving And Pull Out.” Journal of Experimental Biology, 1998. http://jeb.biologists.org/content/201/3/403
- Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. “Peregrine Falcon Facts.” http://wildlife.utah.gov/learn-more/peregrine-cam/137-utah-animals/falcon-cam/760-peregrine-falcon-facts.html
- Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. “Peregrine Falcon.” https://web.archive.org/web/20081201023719/http://www.dnr.state.wi.us/org/LAND/er/factsheets/birds/falcon.htm