‘On the Wing’: You Are What They Eat

“Alan Tennant’s ‘On the Wing’ [is] a straightforward narrative that gradually evolves into a complex narrative that connects the origins of life with its uncertain future.

It begins in a battered single-engine Cessna Skyhawk 2,000 feet above a sandy plain the size of Connecticut — great tidal flats off Padre Island on the Gulf Coast in Texas, home to more than 300 species of resident, wintering and migratory birds, including Falco peregrinus tundrius, the fabled arctic peregrine falcons. These tiny acrobatic raptor-hunters are perfectly adapted creatures of the air. They fling themselves into surging updrafts to be lofted into the high, thin sky from which their astonishing eyesight lets them spot the smallest prey. Then, tucking in their wings, they fall, heaven-thrown darts, unfolding at the last moment to expose razor-sharp talons. Unwary doves, luckless cormorants or distracted gulls never quite know what’s hit them when the falcon rips past at suicide velocity, leaving behind a curved gash to the bone.”

Book review here by Homer Hickam in the New York Times.