You have probably heard of the peregrine falcon. Peregrine falcons are commonly recognized for their diving abilities, often exceeding speeds of 200 mph. in their dives. But being able to dive at such speeds presents some challenges. However, there is much more to these magnificent birds than just their unique diving abilities. Being a predatory bird, they need to be more than exceptionally keen in their senses. What makes the peregrine falcon such an interesting creature is the many devices that these birds have been equipped with to put them at the top of their game.
Eyes: The eyes of all raptors are magnificent, and peregrine falcons are no exception. Being able to spot their prey from up to a mile away, falcons climb high into the air (if they aren't already high in the air) and prepare to dive to their prey. But two problems arise. The first is that often there would be a glare that would prevent the falcon from seeing very well. But to remedy this problem falcons have a dark area below thier eyes which works in the same way as the black paint below a football players eyes.
The second problem is that when traveling at such high speeds, the eyes of the falcon would dry out. But (as with most other birds) peregrine falcons have a second eyelid called a nictitating membrane. This 'eyelid' is transparent, which allows the bird to see while simultaneously protecting the eye from wind damage. Unlike a normal eyelid, the nictitating membrane closes from the front of the eye to the back.
Breathing: In order to breathe when traveling at 200+ mph., peregrine falcons have been equipped with a set of bones (called 'breakers') that are in the center of the nostrils which break the wind while in a dive. This allows the falcons to breathe as they plummet to their prey.
Diving: Peregrine falcons search for prey high in the air, and need to be able to dive quickly in order to catch their prey. In order to be able to dive as quickly as possible, peregrine falcons have a unique 'teardrop' (as it has been described here) body shape, and their contour feathers (the sleek outer feathers) are remarkably stiff to reduce air resistance. The wings of the peregine falcon are unlike those of most other raptors, as they angle backward for optimum preformance when in a dive.