A dive into the drama of being an urban predator
Some teachers might love this picture-book about peregrine falcons in the city because it doesn’t anthropomorphise.
The protagonists are called tiercels and by page six they are smashing into pigeons mid-air.
They deliver the prey to their eyases waiting helplessly to be fed.
Using technical language, authors Andrew Kelly and Sue Lawson look closely at the lives of these fierce hunters such as the famous pair roosting at 367 Collins St.
Words such as talons, eyas, tiercel and carcass create a rather intense picture of their life on a high ledge.
The falcons hunt, eat and grow, without indulging in the adventures of the typical storybook animal. Is this a good thing?
To warm-blooded creatures such as parents, this focus on the feather and claw of nature in a kid’s book might be a little too harsh.
Peregrines in the city rejects heart-warming narratives in favour of clear description and close-ups of eggs hatching.
On the bright side, the book is well-observed and researched so that a reader gains a good idea of the life stages of a falcon.
On the more negative side, there is no real attempt at contextualising this tough stance, leaving the reader wondering if the actual birds don’t have a bit more fun than is depicted.
Are the eyases really so rude as to “snatch” morsels of food from their parents’ beaks? Do they really cough up feathers and bones as pellets?
The answer is “yes”. These parents have a thankless task, endlessly incubating and shuffling eggs.
At the back of the book is a list of falcon facts, which is quite impressive, and an account of the nesting success of the Collins St pair.
Apparently, there is no rivalry between falcon nestlings, one adaptation that has obviously been lost during evolution that could have been emphasised.
All in all, with a sometimes minimal text and double page spread illustrations by Dean A Jones, this book dives straight into the drama of being an urban predator.
Peregrines in the City, Andrew Kelly and Sue Lawson, Wild Dog, 2022. •