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  • Animal Science
  • Animals
Eagles are large, powerful birds of prey, with talons that lock their quarry in a death grip and hooked beaks that can rip flesh like a hot knife through butter. They feature wingspans of more than 7 feet.

Falcons, while not nearly as big or strong, are the world’s fastest animal. A peregrine falcon can fly upward of 240 miles per hour. It also has a notched, hooked beak it uses to break the back of its prey.

So which would you take? That question was tackled Sunday on NBC Sports’ “Football Night in America” show, prior to the game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons, played in Atlanta. Students in the Cornell Raptor Program engaged in a mock debate, moderated by Heather Huson, the program’s director and an assistant professor of animal genetics in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Both students made convincing arguments for their respective birds, and when they finished making their cases, Huson declared the winner.

“I’ve got to go with the Falcons,” she said. “In their home habitat, they’re just more comfortable.”

To which Swoop, the Eagles’ mascot, burst onstage to show his displeasure. “Sorry,” Huson replied, shaking her head.

For the record, Sunday’s final score was Falcons 24, Eagles 20. Huson, the raptor expert, was right.

The segment, which runs just less than two minutes, can be viewed here.

This article also appeared on the Cornell Chronicle.

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