- A-Z Animals
Falcons are any of the diurnal birds of prey belonging to the family Falconidae, distinguished by their thin, tapered wings. Known for their amazing flying abilities, they possess plumes or ‘flags’ on the legs and have a small projection in their beak that is developed into a ‘tooth’. Unlike eagles, hawks, and other predatory birds of the family Accipitridae, falcons use the ‘tomial tooth’ (located on the side of the upper beak) to kill their prey.
While the Falconidae family comprises 60 different species of predatory birds, including falcons, falconets, and caracaras. The name falcon is also used for representing 35 ‘true’ falcon species that are classified into three to four groups, including the small and stocky kestrels, the slightly larger hobbies and their relatives, the variably sized peregrine falcons, and the hierofalcons or hawk-falcons. Some of the commonly found falcon species are mentioned below:
Size: Their size varies depending on the species, with the smallest falcon being the Seychelles kestrel of length 9.8 in (25 cm) and the largest gyrfalcon having a length of 25.5 in (65 cm).
Weight: The weight of falcons ranges between 1.5 lbs (0.7 kg) and 2.6 lbs (1.2 kg)
Wingspan: While large falcon species such as gyrfalcon can have a wingspan of 110-160 cm, the Seychelles kestrel, which is the smallest of the falcons, has a wingspan of 40-45 cm.
Color: These birds typically have brown, yellow, white, gray, or black plumage.
Eyes: Their eyes have a translucent eyelid and a much larger lens than humans.
Beak: They have a notched beak with a tooth-like projection as compared to the curved beak of hawks.
Falcons live on all the continents of the world, except for the high Arctic and Antarctica. Common species like the peregrine falcons (in the more northern regions such as Alaska and Greenland) and Amur falcons are known for migrating to their wintering grounds southward.
These birds are found almost everywhere on the earth, ranging from deserts, grasslands, forests, arctic tundra, and around water bodies typically along the coast.
In the wild, most falcons have a lifespan of about 13 years, but some may live for 16-20 years. Captive falcons can live as long as 25 years.
Falcons, being a dominant predator, hunt blackbirds, pigeons, shorebirds, ducks, gulls, grebes, starlings, jays, waterfowl, and songbirds. They occasionally eat small mammals such as rats, mice, gophers, and ground squirrels. They also steal prey, including lizards, frogs, insects, small snakes, and fish from other predatory birds.
Unlike most hawks, true falcons do not construct nests. Instead, they may assemble the substrate at the nesting site (usually tree cavities, cliffs, epiphytes, and tall urban structures) to produce a smooth surface for the eggs. Falcons also use nests that have been built by corvids and other raptor species.
Most falcon species are monogamous, breeding as solitary pairs. They are territorial breeders and defend hunting territories around their nesting sites. Although the males usually perform courtship displays, the breeding pair sometimes participates in perched and flight displays accompanied by vocalizations. A few species, including the collared falconets and red-throated caracaras, may display a polygynous mating system.
They breed once each year, usually between late winter and summer. Females lay 2-4 eggs every alternate day or every third day. Incubation lasts for 28-35 days, and the chicks become capable of flight after a fledging period of 4-8 weeks.
Baby falcons are covered in gray or white fluffy down feathers. The upper beak of hatchlings is light-blue, whereas the legs are gray.
1. How fast can a falcon fly?
Falcons can fly at an exceptional speed. Species like peregrine falcons dive at speeds of 320 km/h (200 mi/h), which makes them the fastest-moving creatures in the world.
2. What is a falconer?
A person who uses a trained captive raptor, like a falcon, hawk, or eagle, to pursue and capture live prey, including rabbits and squirrels, is called a falconer.
3. What is a group of falcons called?
The collective noun used to describe a group of falcons is called a cast.
4. What is a baby falcon called?
Baby falcons are called eyas or eyass, but the term is specifically used to denote falcon chicks reared for falconry.
5. What is a male falcon called?
The term used for representing a male falcon is tiercel (US spelling) or tercel (UK spelling).