EXCLUSIVEBy Freya Coombes
STUNNING photos show the world’s fastest bird – a peregrine falcon – appearing to surf mid-flight on the back of a hapless pelican.
In one image, the protective father falcon is riding the pelican as it sinks its claws into the back of the unfortunate bird, who got too close to his nest of chicks.
These incredible photos were taken by photographer Phoo Chan from California. The action took place at Torrey Pines Beach in San Diego, California.
Phoo was positioned about 100 feet away, with the action lasting less than one second. These detailed shots were captured on a Sony A1 camera with a Sonly FE 600mm lens.
“The peregrine falcon was protecting its nest from any flying birds that came close to the nest,” he said.
“Shocked and traumatized, the brown pelican escaped. Very few attacks resulted in fatality depending on which part of the pelican body was struck at.
“A small flock of brown pelicans were flying close to the peregrine falcon’s nest. Within a split second, the male falcon flew out and gave a powerful kick on the back of one of the unfortunate pelicans, sending it wobbling downwards trying to escape the attack.
“My focus was locked on the male falcon and, despite the super-fast action, I was able to capture the sequence.”
The peregrine falcon is a fast-flying raptor, reaching speeds of over 200 mph as it drops down towards its prey. Renowned for its incredible dive speed, the peregrine falcon is the fastest bird in the world, as well as the fasted animal in the world.
The brown pelican is a large, heavy-bodied, slow-flying seabird. They often feed on eggs and nestlings of other birds, being a serious threat newborn birds. With a wingspan of six-to-seven feet, the brown pelican reaches speeds of 30 miles per hour.
“Your reflexes and agility are put to the test for this type of fast action shot,” said Phoo.
“Not until you see the details on the computer screen, are you able to tell what had precisely happened. The naked eye simply cannot provide such precision as it happens so fast. It simply gives you a sense of amazement.
“I felt a sense of achievement and joy since I drove over eight hours just to get to this location.
“Understanding basic birds’ behaviour usually helps you to be more prepared in getting good action shots. For instance, a bird’s body language would tell you if it’s ready to take off from the perch.
“It is important to understand and respect nature so that everyone can continue to enjoy the same passion for a long time to come.”