Falcon

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.

Falcon Scientific Classification

Animalia
Chordata
Aves
Falconiformes
Falconidae

Falcon

List of Common Types of Falcon Species

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:

  • Malagasy kestrel
  • Mauritius kestrel
  • Seychelles kestrel
  • Australian kestrel or Nankeen kestrel
  • Spotted kestrel
  • Rock kestrel
  • Common kestrel
  • Greater kestrel
  • Banded kestrel
  • Fox kestrel
  • Gray kestrel
  • Lesser kestrel
  • Dickinson’s kestrel
  • American kestrel
  • Amur falcon
  • Sooty falcon
  • African red-necked falcon
  • Red-footed falcon
  • Aplomado falcon
  • Eleonora’s falcon
  • Eurasian merlin
  • Orange-breasted falcon
  • Bat falcon
  • African hobby
  • Eurasian hobby
  • Australian hobby
  • Oriental hobby
  • Gray falcon
  • Brown falcon
  • New Zealand falcon
  • Laggar falcon
  • Lanner falcon
  • Black falcon
  • Gray falcon
  • Saker falcon
  • Prairie falcon
  • Gyrfalcon
  • Peale’s falcon
  • Barbary falcon
  • Pallid falcon
  • Taita falcon
  • Laughing falcon
  • Plumbeous forest-falcon
  • Collared forest-falcon
  • Lined forest-falcon
  • Cryptic forest-falcon
  • Buckley’s forest-falcon
  • Guadalupe caracara
  • Crested caracara
  • Red-throated caracara
  • Striated caracara
  • Yellow-headed caracara
  • Mountain caracara
  • White-throated caracara
  • Black caracara
  • Black-thighed falconet
  • Philippine falconet
  • White-fronted falconet
  • Pied falconet
  • Collared falconet

Physical Description and Appearance

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).

Falcon Size

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.

Falcon Wingspan

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.

Falcon Beak

Distribution

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.

What Kind of Habitats do Falcons Live in

These birds are found almost everywhere on the earth, ranging from deserts, grasslands, forests, arctic tundra, and around water bodies typically along the coast.

How long do They Live

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.

Falcon Bird

What do They Eat

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.

Behavior

  • The ‘true’ falcon species usually store food supplies away in crevasses, saving them for later use.
  • Some species, such as the peregrines are solitary hunters but may guard territories in pairs and form big flocks during migration.
  • Falcons use calls to communicate with mates, advertise ownership of their territories, and in food or territorial disputes.
  • Female falcons and chicks use different types of vocalizations and sound to beg for food. The various types of vocalizations are described as chatters, cackles, croaks, squawks, whines, and wails.
  • The kestrels typically hover, a characteristic hunting behavior that apparently looks like they are hanging in the air.
Pictures of Falcons

Adaptations

  • Their long, narrow wings give them the excellent flying ability, helping them to change directions quickly and dive at incredibly high speeds.
  • A falcon’s vision is eight times superior to humans. It uses this exceptional eyesight for spotting and catching small, fast-moving prey.
Male Falcon

How do They Reproduce and Mate

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.

Female Falcon

What do The Baby Falcons Look Like

Baby falcons are covered in gray or white fluffy down feathers. The upper beak of hatchlings is light-blue, whereas the legs are gray.

Baby Falcon

Falcon-FAQs

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).

Flying Falcon

Interesting Facts

  • The fastest dive ever recorded for a peregrine falcon is 390 km/h.
  • Amur falcons undertake the longest migration of any predatory bird, completing a journey of over 4,000 km.
  • Falcons are often eaten by wolves on the ground, while eagles and large owls hunt smaller falcon species in the air.