Many visitors to the rock and our website have asked me this question. Do you ever see them make a kill? Yes, many times!
Morro Rock is 576 feet above sea level; the perches of male and female are approximately 25 yards apart and 375 feet above the parking lot. The morning dove approached the rock from seaward, rounding the corner of the rock about 150 feet above the parking lot. The male spots it immediately and takes off at speed. Looks like a humming bird. The female close in about half a second behind and approaching Mach 0.20.
The morning dove travels about 55 mph in level flight. Rounding the rock from windward, he could have a 10-15 mph tailwind on any given day. The distance from where the dove would have been spotted to where it fell is approximately 300 yards. A morning dove at 60 mph will travel 88 feet per second. The disadvantage for the falcon is that he will probably lose one second just spotting the dove. Also, he is at a dead stop. His advantage is the altitude that he has over the dove, about 200 feet. The falcon must cover this distance in approximately nine seconds from a standstill position which he did.
He is much like a quarter horse or a sprinter, where she is like a thoroughbred. Once she gets the long legs going, look out. At impact with knuckled talons, he hits the dove in an upward swoop. With a burst of feathers, he continues into an inside loop to capture the prey, but the female at speed picked it off of the parking lot before the male could complete his loop.
It is very rare that this can be captured on film. It is seconds in time. Neither the operator nor the camera with auto focus are fast enough to capture this. You have to be there. One of our avid website watchers was witness to this kill and still talks about it today, a year later.
High altitude kills from 1000 feet or more with spectacular stoops normally happen over the estuary and sand-spit. There are dozens of ways they take prey. This scenario with the dove is only one.
We love to try to answer the questions that you have. Feel free to send them in to us. ~Bob