Why Does a Falcon Live at This Space Antenna?

By Jamie Condliffe on at

This is Nalla. She’s a female peregrine falcon — a bird capable of 200 mph hunting dives, before ripping prey apart with her razor-sharp talons. So why the hell does she live at the European Space Agency’s Cebreros deep space antenna in Spain?

In the past, scientists have found that small birds quite like to hang out around the antenna, often nesting in its framework and frequently using its surface as a toilet bowl. The folks at the ESA explain that Nella possesses some “persuasive abilities” that she uses to dissuade those others birds from spending too much time around the antenna. “We call it ‘the mediaeval art of falcon persuasion’ – and it works,” explains the ESA.

That leaves scientists at the facility without the trivial work of cleaning up bird poop. Instead, the can use the deep space antenna for what it’s designed to do: to communicate with missions voyaging out to 800 million km in space.