Peregrine Falcon Watch
Spring 2003

Frightful's Mountain
by Jean Craighead George

Click here to see Frightful's Mountain illustrated >>>

We sent the following e-mail:

on 4/17/03 11:52 PM, Harvey, Lynne at wrote:

 Dear Ms. George,
We are a group of 4th graders in San Diego, Ca. that are doing a distance learning project monitoring a pair of nesting peregrine falcons in
Cleveland, Ohio. We are excited as the eggs are due to hatch next week.  We are maintaining a web site about the project if you would like to take a look. Here is the link 

To go along with the project we are also reading your book, Frightful's Mountain, and enjoying it tremendously - in fact, we don't want to put it down!

We do have one question ~ did you do a lot of research before writing it?  It reads like there is a lot of factual information in it.

We will be doing some writing / book reviews and illustrations from descriptions in the book and posting them on our web site when we finish the book.

Thanks for taking the time to read this ~ if you could answer our question that would be great.

Lynne Harvey (teacher) and 8 Rolling Hills students.

On 4/21/03 we found the following response in our e-mail in the morning:

Dear 4th Graders,

I have been watching the falcons on the internet, too. Marvelous. I did do a lot of research of FRIGHTFUL'S MOUNTAIN. Although I trained a falcon when I was 13, from which experiences I wrote MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN, so much more is known about peregrine falcons today, that I read scientific books about them. In addition, my agent retired and became a master falconer. He lived and flew his birds in the Catskills and I would go up and join him and the other falconers in the training and imagining myself to be a soaring, speeding falcon.

Best wishes,

Jean Craighead George


Things we are learning from the book ...

  • Frightful thought Sam was his mother ~ falcons, like many birds, "imprint" on humans.  When this happens they rely on the human for care, food, etc.

  • Chup (the male peregrine) trying to attract Frightful's attention, flipped over in the air and flying upside down ~ these arial maneuvers are part of the falcon courtship ritual.

  • Falcons have a spot in their eye that connects to nerves in their brain that enables them to focus instantly on movement.  The ocular pectin in the eyes helps them focus at great distances.  Falcons also have a lower eyelid that closes upward and a nictitating membrane that covers the eye.

  • Falcons pump their wings hard to fly fast.  They can also put on the brakes by dropping their secondary feathers.

  • Their coloring helps them blend in with their environment, like many animals camouflage.

  • "Sitting" on the babies to keep them warm and protected after hatching is called "brooding".

  • When the adult falcons are around the eyases, brooding or feeding them, they actually turn under their sharp talons.

  • At about 14 days old the eyases grow a heavier coat of down that helps them regulate body temperature.

  • Birds of prey eat meat, bones, and fur .... they only absorb what they need and bring the indigestible parts back up in a pellet.  Once they have eaten, they don't eat again until the spit up this pellet.  [We went to and did  virtual dissections of several different kinds of owl pellets.] 

  • When birds get hot they pant - just like a dog.  That is how they perspire. 

  • Once the babies have fledged - left the nest - they are on their own.  The parents do not feed them unless they are starving ~ and then will only drop them food and leave, not help them.

  • At one time peregrines were completely gone in the Eastern U. S.  Thanks to a man named Heinz Meng who was the first to breed the falcons in captivity and release them in to the wild through "hacking", they are making a comeback.

  • Utility poles are also dangerous to falcons and other birds.  If two lines are parallel and are both "hot" and the birds' wings touch them at the same time, they complete a circuit which cause the birds to be electrocuted. 

  • Raptors play an important role in the balance of nature.  Some keep excess bird populations down, some keep rabbits from taking over, others clean up rats, mice, and voles.

  • Peregrine falcons were once called duck hawks.

  • The adults have bars spots on their chests called "brood patches".  The bare skin is actually warmer than the feathers.

  • The babies live off of the remaining yolk in the egg for the first few hours after hatching.  There first food is often a bite of liver which gets their digestive tract working.

  • If the babies don't eat every few hours at first they will get "hunger streaks" in their feathers which causes weakness and the feathers will break when they are learning to fly.

  • Only 3 out of 10 peregrines live ling enough to raise their own young.

  • When the babies are in the nest they are called "nestlings" ... when the begin to fly, "fledglings".

  • The adults will "hack" their offspring ~ bring them food if they are unable to catch their own.


Book Reviews of Frightful's Mountain

Frightful’s Mountain is a magnificent book.  The first page is so exiting you do not want to stop until you are finished!  You feel such sorrow for Sam and Frightful, when Frightful leaves or does not respond to Sam’s call.  Some of my personal favorite 
parts in the whole book are the following.  First, in the beginning when Frightful is jessed to a tree, another animal is 
coming, will it get Frightful or not?  Will she be wounded, or not? (Find out by reading! [Hint! Hint])

Another of my favorite parts is when Chup and Frightful are at their arie tending Chup’s first eyases. (They’re so cute!) Even though they aren’t hers, Frightful treats them like her own.   The next season Frightful has a clutch of her own with a different 
mate.  Sam Gribly was very happy to see that Frightful was wild enough to have her own clutch of eggs.

This is a book that falcon fans of all ages should read.  It is a heart-warming story, filled with facts, and holds your interest to the very end.                                                                                                                           -Jessie

When you read a book you want to be amazed, and Jean Craighead George amazed me in Frightful’s Mountain.

Sam Gribley is a young man who raised a peregrine falcon named Frightful. One day two men came by and took Frightful from Sam, but Frightful manages to get away from these bad men. She can not see because of a hood the men put on her, but she can hear many things. She starts flying and relies on her hearing to lead the way. She hears a girl named Alice Gribley (Sam’s sister) and flies to her. Alice recognizes Frightful and cuts the hood off.

Later on in the story, Frightful finds a mate named Chup. Chup is a male peregrine who lost his wife. His wife had eyases (babies). He is now looking for a new wife/mom for his eyases (babies). She becomes Chup’s mate and takes care of his babies. She trains them until they are all grown up. When it is time for them to migrate Chup and his babies leave, but Frightful stays. The next season she meets 426 and they lay 3 eggs.  Later on Frightful migrates to wonderful warm islands, and when she gets back…

Frightful’s Mountain is an extraordinary book ~ give it a try!                                                                         -Robert

Frightful’s Mountain by Jean Craighead George is a great story for all ages.  It takes place in a lot of different settings but the main settings are the ancient hemlock tree and Sam’s house.  There are many characters in the book, but Frightful, Sam, Chup and 426 are the main characters.

  The story is about a peregrine falcon named Frightful that goes through countless adventures with a few different people.  This book definitely falls under the category of realistic fiction as the author did a lot of research to write the book and wrote from her own experiences.  I highly recommend this book to everyone.                                    -Sam

Click here to see Frightful's Mountain illustrated >>>


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© 2003 by Lynne Harvey
Rolling Hills Elementary
Poway Unified School District
San Diego, CA.

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