Bird Families

What does a falcon bird look like and what it eats: lay out all the nuances


Pygmy falcon or African pygmy falcon(Polihierax semitorquatus), is a falcon that lives in eastern and southern Africa and is the smallest carnivore on the continent. Like a small falcon, only 19 to 20 cm long, it preys on insects, small reptiles and small mammals.


Adult pygmy falcons are white below and on the face, gray above, and females with a chestnut back.

On the back of the head there are white “eye-like spots”. Adolescents have a brown back, more dull than adult women, and a reddish wash on their chest. The flight feathers on the wings are defined black and white (more black above, more white below), the tail is prohibited black and white.

The flight is low and hilly. In size, pattern and habit of standing upright on an exposed branch or top of a tree, this species resembles some shrikes.

Requirement - "high kikiKIKrepeated "(Kenya) or" 'chip chip' and 'kik kik kik kik' "(South Africa).

Range, habitat and population

The pygmy falcon inhabits dry shrubs. Subspecies P. s. castanonotus comes from South Sudan to Somalia and south to Uganda and Tanzania, P. s. semitorquatus comes from Angola to northern South Africa. This range is estimated to have an area of ​​2.7 million km and the total population is estimated to be between 100,000 and 1 million birds.

The attachment

In Kenya, the pygmy nest of falcons in the nests of the white-headed buffalo weaver and the rows of the two birds match. In southern Africa, they are found around the nests of the red-billed buffalo weaver, but predominantly nest in the vacant rooms of the sociable weaver's nests, which are large and multi-chambered - even if the sociable weavers still have an active colony in the nest. Despite being bird eaters and more than gregarious weavers, pygmy falcons mostly leave the latter alone, although they do occasionally catch and eat chicks and even adults.


Pygmy falcons sometimes engage in a polyandrous relationship where there are more than two adults living together and caring for chicks. There are four potential reasons for this behavior: protection, shared polyamy, delayed dispersal of offspring, and thermoregulation (warmth). Confirmation for the latter is that in the African winter dwarf nest of falcons, it is further in the nest of sociable weavers, where there is better isolation.

Falcon: description and photos of the bird. What do falcons look like?

Real falcons

True falcons are the most advanced bird predators. The sizes of the representatives of the genus are very different. Kestrels and Kestrels have a body length of 23-35 cm and a mass from 100 to 250 g. Gyrfalcons grow up to 60 cm, and they weigh on average up to 2 kg. Males are smaller than females. In the color of the plumage of falcons, gray-gray, red, brown, black-gray tones are more often found. The ventral side of the body is usually variegated.

1. Mediterranean Falcon (Latin Falco biarmicus), photo: Derek Keats, CC BY 2.0. 2. Sparrow Kestrel (Latin Falco sparverius), photo by: Mike's Birds, CC BY-SA 2.0. 3. Common Kestrel (Latin Falco tinnunculus), photo by Andreas Trepte, CC BY-SA 2.5. 4. Saker Falcon (lat. Falco cherrug), photo: Harold, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Falcons are easily distinguished by their characteristic vertical posture and long, pointed wings. The wings of a bird of prey significantly exceed the size of the tail. Their shape and length contribute to the development of considerable speed in a dive flight and dexterous maneuvering during vertical movement in the air.

The peregrine falcon has the fastest flight among birds. Diving for prey from above, this falcon has a maximum speed of up to 322 km / h.

Photo Credit: Derek Keats, CC BY 2.0

The tail of the falcon is striated. It is somewhat rounded at the end and has an impressive length.

Sparrow Kestrel (Latin Falco sparverius). Photo by: Gregory “Slobirdr” Smith, CC BY-SA 2.0

The bird's head is large relative to the body and rounded. On its sides there are black "whiskers" expressed in varying degrees. The beak of the representatives of the genus is short, with a sharp hook at the end, very strong.A systematic sign of falcons are pronounced teeth along the incisal edge of the beak and depressions on the opposite side - on the mandible. Closing together, they form a formidable weapon.

Around the eyes of the falcon there is a naked ring devoid of feathers. The bird's eyes are round with a dark iris.

Photo Credit: Benjamint444, CC BY-SA 3.0

True falcons have long legs with large legs, elongated toes, and strong, sharp claws. The lower (metatarsal) part of the tarsus is mesh.

The cry of falcons, peregrine falcons and other representatives of the genus is similar to a sharp, abrupt and prolonged "ki - ki - ki ...".

According to the method of hunting and external features, all species of the genus can be divided into 3 groups:

  • Kestrels

This is a genus of birds from the order of Falconiformes. They are distinguished by red plumage on the upper parts of the body and a dense build. Differences are sometimes noticeable between females and males of the same species. They hunt mainly land animals: reptiles, insects and rodents.

  • Hobbyists

They are slimmer and larger than the former, and their plumage on the back has a steel or dark shade. Black feathers ("whiskers") adorn the cheeks of their heads. Hobbies hunt small birds.

  • Falcons as we used to see them

Large birds, with "whiskers" and "cap" of the same color. The coloration has signs of the two previous groups. They have a gray dorsal part with reddish specks. There are horizontal stripes on the belly, and the body is more variegated than that of the rest of the genus. All falcons in this group have dark gray tails in a transverse stripe with a white edge. They hunt large birds and land animals.

Some scientists distinguish Saker Falcon, Gyrfalcon, Lanner and Laggar into a separate taxon - the suborder Hierofalco. Outwardly, these birds resemble hawks. Their contrasting plumage is dominated by bright brown and red tones, the abdomen is speckled or with short strokes.

1. Gray-bearded kestrel (Latin Falco cenchroides), photo by Patrick_K59, CC BY 2.0. 2. Turumti (lat. Falco chicquera), photo by: Cks3976, CC BY-SA 3.0. 3. South Mexican Falcon (Latin Falco femoralis), photo: Elaine R. Wilson, Copyrighted free use. 4. Evening Falcon (Latin Falco rufigularis), photo: Joao Quental, CC BY 2.0.

Forest falcons

Forest falcons have a striated belly and tail. In color, they resemble hawks, and with the likeness of a facial disk around the eyes - harriers. Bird sizes vary. The smallest is the striped forest falcon (Latin Micrastur ruficollis), which has a body length of 30 - 38 cm and a mass of 150 - 200 g. The largest is a collared falcon (Latin Micrastur semitorquatus) with a body length of 45-60 cm , weighing 500-750 g. Variations in color are characteristic for all representatives of the genus. There are light, dark, orange-red and striped forest falcons.

Photo Credit: Dario Sanches, CC BY-SA 2.0

American pygmy falcons

These are small birds with a body length from 28 to 30 cm, rounded wings and a rounded tail, which do not have a clearly expressed additional tooth of the upper beak. The upper part of the body of the birds is colored brownish. The underside of the body is light, streaked, the tail is striped, the wings are dark brown. A distinctive feature is the presence of small bright white spots on the wing coverts. Males, females and juveniles do not differ in color from each other.

Photo by: Jorge La Grotteria, All rights reserved

Crumb falcons

These are the smallest representatives of the genus and the entire family. Their body length is 14-19 cm, wings - 9-12 cm, weight - 35-45 g. This genus includes the smallest feathered predator, the white-fronted baby falcon (Latin Microhierax latifrons), endemic to the island of Borneo, with a body length of 14 -15 cm and weighing 35-45 g. All falcons of this genus have a contrasting color: dark brown or black top and white bottom. Only red-footed and black-footed dwarf falcons have a red or reddish belly. Some species differ somewhat in color, which is reflected in their names: white-fronted, magpie.

Left photo: Red-footed pygmy falcon (muti) (Latin Microhierax caerulescens), photo: Dr. Raju Kasambe, CC BY-SA 4.0. Right photo: Philippine pygmy falcon (Latin Microhierax erythrogenys), photo: James Gagen, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Small falcons

Their body length is 19-28 cm, weight is 45-70 g. The color of birds is variegated.

The African little falcon (Latin Polihierax semitorquatus) has ash-gray wing coverts and a cap of the same color. He has contrasting white "glasses" around his eyes, a spot of the same color on the back of his head and the lower side of his body.On the back of the bird there is a bright chestnut mantle, the eyes are framed by bare skin of a bright red color, the paws have the same bright red color.

In the Asiatic small falcon (Latin Polihierax insignis), females are brighter than males. They have a chestnut-red front part of the back, the same color "cap" on the head and neck. The back and head of the male are gray. The species is characterized by a bright white upper tail, orange-yellow naked rings around the eyes and the same color of the paws. The wings of birds are relatively short - 11-15 cm, but pointed like a falcon. The tail of small falcons is 7-13 cm long. Small additional teeth are located along the edges of the beak.

Photo Credit: Bernard DUPONT, CC BY-SA 2.0

Laughing Falcons

This is a monotypic genus represented by one species.

The Laughing Falcon is a bird with a dark brown back and similar wings, a striped tail and a variegated golden cream or straw lower body. The "cap" on the falcon's head is also straw and variegated. A black "mask" passes through the back of his head and eyes. In color and vertical landing, laughing falcons are similar to representatives of the genus Falco, but differ from them in weight (400-650 g) and body length (45-50 cm).

Photo by: Andreas Trepte, CC BY-SA 4.0

General characteristics

Falcons are the central and most numerous genus of the falcon family. Adult birds are distinguished by narrow wedge-shaped wings, thanks to which they are able to deftly maneuver and develop an unusually high speed in a dive flight. For example, the peregrine falcon is considered the fastest animal in the world - while hunting, it is capable of speeds up to 322 km / h, or 90 m / s. In young falcons, in the first year of life, flight feathers are longer, and therefore their wings look wider, like buzzards or eagles. This structure reduces the hunting skills of birds, but helps them learn to fly.

Gyrfalcon, Saker Falcon and Laggar also belong to the genus of falcons. Small insectivorous falcons with long narrow wings are called hobbyists. Falcons hunting small rodents are kestrels. Large, specially trained falcons are used as birds of prey during falconry.

In February 2005, a Canadian scientist from McGill University Louis Lefebvre (Louis Lefebvre) proposed to determine the IQ of birds according to the degree of ingenuity they show to get food. According to this method, falcons are among the most intelligent birds.

Falcons are ubiquitous (excluding Antarctica). They nest in trees, occupying nests of other birds, on the ground, rocks or high buildings (towers, bell towers).

Where do falcons live?

Real falcons live all over the world, except for Antarctica, being a cosmopolitan genus. They are found more often in open areas or alternate between forest and flat areas. They can also be seen near cliffs and cliffs. If the attitude of people towards them does not promise danger, then they settle next to anthropogenic landscapes, right up to cities.

Different species occupy different habitats. Gyrfalcon prefers northern countries, lives more often by the ocean, in the tundra, where there are many bird rock settlements. Peregrine falcon migrates, visiting Africa, America, Asia and Europe during its life. Kestrels live in New Zealand, New Guinea, New Caledonia, Madagascar and Mauritius, Seychelles, Australia, in the steppes and semi-deserts of America and Eurasia, in African countries. Hobbies are found on the islands of the Mediterranean Sea, in Japan, Indonesia, the Kuriles, Sakhalin, New Guinea, Australia, African countries, on the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea - in Tunisia, Algeria, on the coasts of the Atlantic, on the Arabian Peninsula, in Finland, Norway , Sweden. Other members of the genus can be found in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, New Guinea, South America and the United States.

Laughing Falcons live in the forests of the Amazon, and also occupy areas from southern Mexico to Uruguay and northern Argentina.

Forest falcons found in the humid tropical regions of Central and South America.

American pygmy falcons live in the pampas and semi-deserts of northern Argentina.

Small falcons - inhabitants of semi-deserts and dry savannas of northeast and southwest Africa, as well as areas with sparsely growing trees in Southeast Asia.

Pygmy falcons, or baby falcons - sedentary birds living in the tropical forests of Southeast Asia, from North India and Southeast China to the Philippines and the Malay Archipelago.

Photo by: Henrik Schulze alias Smittel, CC BY-SA 4.0

Falcon diet

Under natural conditions, the falcon feeds on birds that reach an average size, sometimes it also hunts mammals, but only in rare cases.

Most often, the predator chooses partridges, seabirds, which are in bird colonies, it is easier to catch prey there. The falcon can also select auks (puffins, guillemots, loons), long-tailed ducks, gulls (gray, three-toed, silver), sandpipers, sandpipers, ermines.

Falcons, whose habitat is forest, choose forest birds, such as black grouse, ptarmigan, hawk owls, passerine and uplifted owls, teal. The main food for these falcons is partridge.

Sometimes these predators can also hunt mammals - hares, squirrels and lemmings. The falcon can attack ducks, black grouses and domestic pigeons.

The feeding of the falcons also depends on the season. What does a falcon eat in winter? During this period, ptarmigan becomes the main and practically the only food; when living near non-freezing water, they can also hunt water birds.

The nature and lifestyle of the falcon

What a falcon bird has been known for a long time. Due to his majestic posture, all his regal appearance, courage, strength and dexterity, he has long been considered a noble bird. They hunt in the morning and in the evening.

The rest of the time they calmly digest their prey in secluded, inaccessible places. The principle of falcon hunting is different. They can overtake their prey in flight.

Birds that are smaller in size become victims. From a great height, falcons overtake their ground prey. At such moments, it is simply impossible to see them due to the rapid fall at incredible speed.

In the photo, a flying falcon

This strong bird nests high in trees, on bulky structures, on rocks and very rarely on the ground. There are times when falcons settle in someone else's spacious nests.

There are some falcons who periodically like to have fun, for this they arrange a real show in the air. It is this type of bird that is easy to tame. They are not afraid of people, they quickly converge with them and can even settle with them nearby.

Falcons are often, tease other birds of prey and it gives them pleasure. Almost always, it is these birds that fly to the wintering site in large groups and very often bring great benefits to humans.

They are distinguished from steel birds by their ability to rise too high in the air. Falcons never eat carrion. They live in pairs, trying with all their might to protect their space from their fellows and other predators.

Literally all types of falcons have a nomadic tendency. Only in some it manifests itself throughout the entire time, others wander only in order to overwinter, and still others do it periodically.

Habitat, habitats

These predatory birds live almost all over the world, with the exception of the north and south poles. Only young individuals fly away to winter. Mature people stay at home, moving with cold weather closer to water bodies. They love steppes and semi-deserts. Gyrfalcon prefer the coastal areas of the northern countries. In Europe, mountains and sheer cliffs are popular. Peregrine Falcons roam almost all their lives and can be found in any corner of the world.

Falcon species

The family of such birds is represented by four dozen species.They differ in color, place of residence, characteristic habits, and also in size, which vary significantly from half a meter in size of large representatives of this family to small specimens with a body length of only about 35 cm.

Representatives of the largest and most famous group bear the name of the same name with the entire family. falcons. Views such birds, especially extremely interesting specimens, are worthy of a detailed description, and therefore some of them will be presented below.

1. Mediterranean falcon - refers to the large representatives of the family brothers. The color of the top is gray-brown, the bottom is much lighter, and these creatures also have a reddish nape. Such birds are found in the Balkans, Italy, Arabia and the northern territories of Africa. They inhabit areas of rocky semi-deserts and deserts, moreover, they are occasionally found on rocky coasts.

Mediterranean falcon

2. Altai falcon in some regions of Central Asia it was widely tamed as a bird of prey and enjoyed considerable popularity. He is also a character in many stories in Hungarian mythology. The color of such birds depends on belonging to a particular subspecies. There are falcons with grayish and brownish plumage, as well as with a reddish back.

Altai falcon

3. Short-tailed falcon - inhabitant of South and East Africa. This bird is small in size, being considered the smallest representative of the African species of the family. But it has an interesting color scheme. The top of the bird's plumage is dark brown, the belly is lighter with a reddish tinge, these birds are distinguished by red spots on the back of the head and a white throat.

Short-tailed falcon

4. Brown falcon - an inhabitant of New Guinea and Australia. In these parts, they inhabit open plains and forest edges, and are found on agricultural land. These falcons are smaller than average in size. They stand out from their relatives with longer legs and wider wings. The color of such birds is primitive, monochromatic, the same in both sexes. Its tone can be judged from the title.

Brown falcon

5. Evening falcon - a resident of the American continent, found in its central part from Mexico to Argentina. Such birds are small in size, and reach an average length of 27 cm. Their color is interesting, contrasting, composed of black, red and white plumage areas. The bird got its name because it usually goes hunting at nightfall.

Evening falcon

6. Mexican falcon belongs to the largest members of the family. It prefers to settle in open areas of semi-deserts and prairies, and nests on rocks. Has a grayish color with variegation. In the United States, these birds were widely used for falconry.

Mexican falcon

7. New Zealand Falcon... The range of plumage of such birds, consisting of combinations of brown, gray, dark and whitish-ocher colors, is quite interesting and is decorated with patterns and variegated spots. This bird has earned the honor of decorating banknotes and coins of the state of New Zealand with its appearance.

New Zealand Falcon

Reproduction and offspring

Falcons are monogamous... The couple is formed during the mating season. In birds that live in the southern hemisphere, the period lasts from July to August. But for northern representatives of falconry, the dates are shifted: from February to March. The mating dance is performed right in the sky. The male often presents a gift to the female in its beak during graceful and high-speed flights. Sometimes you can observe how the female and the male rush down with great speed, clutching their claws. So, they can fly up to 10 meters.

The nesting site is chosen carefully. Safe nooks are preferred. The female lays up to four red eggs. It is believed that the heavier the female, the more offspring she gives. The eggs are incubated by both parents in turn. Incubation lasts about a month.

It is interesting! The number of future chicks in the nest depends on the sufficiency of nutrition: the more abundant it is, the more eggs are laid.

Falcons are caring parents. The chicks are protected by fiercely protecting the nest. But, as soon as the falcons grow up, about a month after birth, they immediately have to leave the nest. Otherwise, there is a risk of running into aggression from their own parents, who feel natural competitors in the young. Sexual maturity in these birds occurs at the age of one year.

Reproduction and life expectancy

These creatures are naturally monogamous. And, having formed a couple, they will jealously protect the family they have created from the encroachments of strangers. Courtship of such birds takes place right in the air.

They represent impetuous flights and games in the sky at great speed. It happens that partners, clutching their claws, begin to fall from a dizzying height. And only, having almost reached the ground, they stop deadly stunts.

Falcon and its chicks

Carefully choosing a place for growing future offspring, such birds prefer rocks and tall trees, looking for smaller corners. But, falcon's nest never settles on the ground. Some of the species of such birds use other people's houses, abandoned by other representatives of the feathered kingdom, to arrange chicks.

Falcon eggs have a red tint. Their number and weight depend on many factors, and most of all on the sufficient nutrition of the mother of future cubs. Incubation, in which both parents are actively involved, usually occurs within a month.

A married couple usually takes full responsibility for feeding and raising offspring. Falcon chicks are under reliable parental protection for a whole month.

However, after this period, guardianship ends and the new generation has to take care of themselves on their own. And an affectionate father and mother are capable of even soon turning into the most cruel competitors.

The falcon hatched chicks in a flower pot, fixed on the balcony of an apartment building

A year later, the younger generation is already building their own nest. The lifespan of such birds is a decent period for birds, about 16 years. True, not all individuals live to old age.

The falcon has too many enemies in nature. These include from birds - owls, from animals - ferrets, weasels, martens, foxes. The population of such winged creatures is significantly reduced by the unreasonable life activity of humans.

However, falcons remain faithful friends of people today. And, being domesticated, such pets often live up to a record for wild relatives of 25 years or more.

Natural enemies

The falcon has quite a few enemies. These are almost all large predators. Owls are also dangerous for them. Foxes and martens, weasels and ferrets rob nests, eat chicks. But the main enemy of the falcon is a person who destroys the ecosystem, exterminates for fun or uses poisons to cultivate agricultural areas.

Enemies of falcons in the wild

All large predators are not averse to eating falcon meat, including eagle owls. Eggs from their clutches are often stolen by martens, ferrets, foxes and weasels. Most of the falcons die due to the destruction of their habitats by humans, a decrease in the food supply, and disturbance at nesting sites. Birds often die on unprotected power lines.

Merlin fights (lat.Falco columbarius). Photo Credit: Bear Golden Retriever, CC BY 2.0

Population and status of the species

At the moment, the gyrfalcon is included in the Red Book, as a species that is decreasing in number.... The Altai falcon is under the threat of extinction. There is no reliable information that those individuals of the Altai falcon that are now in the world are genetically pure.

Important! Saker falcon, peregrine falcon and kestrel are also endangered.

The falcon has been known to man for a long time. He was always used as an excellent hunter: sharp-sighted, strong and lightning-fast.For a long time, this bird was a faithful friend of people who composed fairy tales about it, dedicated sagas and worshiped as a living deity. The kings of the airspace, formidable predators and consummate hunters - it's all about falcons.

The benefits and harms of falcons for humans

Falcons are nature's orderlies, they destroy many rodents. Thus, they regulate their number and, in passing, provide a person with the preservation of the grain harvest.

Many types of falcons are easy to tame. They can help people on the hunt, while protecting herds of sheep from predators, vegetable gardens and fields - from smaller grain, fruit and vegetable-eating birds. Falcons are on the official state service for the protection of the Kremlin monuments in Moscow. They drive crows, pigeons and other man-made birds away from golden domes, thereby saving building elements from erosion and subsequent destruction. At the Brazilian airport, the falcons, along with the hawks, also chase the crows away from the runway. They prevent accidents that can occur to planes due to large concentrations of birds.

Falcons, like other predatory birds, are protected everywhere, despite the fact that sometimes they can carry away poultry, including chickens. But this happens only through the oversight of the owners.

Falcon video

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Interesting facts about falcons

  • The largest of the falcons is the gyrfalcon. Its wingspan is 125-160 cm. Only about 1000 pairs of gyrfalcons live on the territory of Russia.
  • The smallest falcon in the world is the Mauritian kestrel (Latin Falco punctatus). Their number has decreased due to deforestation in the bird's habitat. Today, only 2 pairs of these rare falcons remain in nature.
  • Muti is a falcon up to 20 cm in size. From the fly it attacks birds larger than it in size: quails, blackbirds, thymelia (lat.Garrulax). In India, tamed dregs were used for hunting. The owner held the bird in his hand, so the name of the falcon appeared: "muti" means "a handful".
  • The falcon is depicted on the coats of arms of the UAE, Kyrgyzstan and Iceland.
  • In ancient Egypt, the falcon was revered, it was considered the embodiment of the sun god Ra.
  • Falconry appeared about 2500 years ago. From the East to Europe, starting from the XII century, this hobby was brought by knights returning from the Crusades. The European nobility was fond of falconry, and trained birds were very expensive.
  • In different countries, different types of falconry were used for hunting. Russian amateurs hunted with gyrfalcon and peregrine falcon, Iranian - with red-headed falcon, Middle Eastern - with saker falcon, Indian - with turumdi and muti. In the United States, they hunt with the American, or Sparrow Kestrel (Latin Falco sparverius).
  • The bony bumps in front of the nostrils help falcons redirect air from the nose during high-speed flight.

Saker Falcon (lat.Falco cherrug). Photo Credit: DickDaniels, CC BY-SA 3.0