Falcons are fast, agile, and intelligent birds of prey. These birds have long and pointed wings, which helps them to make sharp turns while chasing or attacking their prey.
Types of Falcons
The continent of North America is home to at least eight different types of falcons. Among these, Prairie Falcon and Peregrine Falcon are native to this region. Besides, the Gyrfalcon is an inhabitant of northern areas of Alaska and Canada. This is so, as Gyrfalcon species prefer colder environments.
Discussed below are some of the most commonly found species of falcons.
Weight: 2.8-5.8 Ounces
Length: 8.7-12.2 Inches
Wingspan: 20.1-24.0 Inches
The Kestrel is among the most commonly found birds of prey in North America. These species are small as compared to other falcons inhabited in this part of the world. These are the migratory birds, which means they pass through the major parts of America including Central America and Canada.
They have visible and vibrant spots on their bodies. This gives them a distinctive appearance when compared with other falcons listed here. Apart from being the smallest falcon species, Kestrel is also referred to as the smallest bird of prey.
Hence, these falcons prefer to hunt small insects, vertebrates, and rodents. The common diet of this species includes lizards, grasshoppers, small birds, and mice. This particular species is capable of living in a wide range of habitats including urban settings.
Weight: 5.6-8.5 Ounces
Length: 9.4-11.8 Inches
Wingspan: 20.9-26.8 Inches
These particular species live throughout the northern hemisphere. Merlin is also found in other parts of the world including Asia, North America, and Europe. There are nearly 9 types of subspecies of Merlin. Three of these subspecies are currently found in different parts of North America. These include:
- Prairie Merlin
- Black Merlin
- Boreal Merlin
Just like other species of falcon, Merlin is also known for its speed. Especially, this type of falcon can attain high speeds while hunting. They also prefer to fly low when in hunting mode. Their common prey is small birds, lizards, and insects. This is so, as the agility and high speed of Merlin falcons allow them to hunt birds and other small prey while flying.
Weight: 18.7-56.4 Ounces
Length: 14.2-19.3 Inches
Wingspan: 39.4-43.3 Inches
These are the most popular type of falcons, as they are mainly known as the fastest birds on the earth. Apart from being the fastest bird in the world, Peregrines are also the fastest of all the animals. While hunting, this species can spot its prey from up in the air. It attacks its prey with great agility and pinpoints precision.
When diving to catch its prey, a Peregrine can achieve a top speed of 180 Mph or above. Diving at such a high speed creates a massive impact, which is strong enough to kill prey in the air. Since they are migratory birds, Peregrine falcons are usually found throughout the world (except Antarctica).
Just like Kestrels, these species have also adapted to the urban habitat. While living in the wild, Peregrines perch on the cliffs. Nevertheless, in an urban setup, these falcons love to make their nests on high buildings. This provides them with a secure place to raise their offspring.
Weight: 28.5-74 Ounces
Length: 19-25.5 Inches
Wingspan: 43-63 Inches
These are known to be the largest of the falcon species found in North America. In some cases, some species of these falcons can even grow bigger than some of the hawks. These falcons like cold habitats i.e. Northern parts of America. Here, they can breed in open tundra.
However, they do tend to avoid those areas with harsh winters. Hence, they migrate to less cold regions during winter. During chilling winters, they like to live nearby grasslands, river valleys, and farmlands. When hunting, they consider perching on the open areas with a lot of prey.
Weight: 14.8-38.8 Ounces
Length: 14.6-18.5 Inches
Wingspan: 35.4-44.5 Inches
This species like to perch on open spaces including fields and grasslands. When hunting, they continue to fly on the plains. Due to their strong eyesight, Prairie falcons can locate small mammals and birds. These falcons are usually found in the western parts of the US.
Prairie falcons are known for their fast flight and remarkable hunting skills. They are sometimes hard to find, as their brown colors allow them to camouflage within their surroundings. This species is larger than Merlin falcons and somewhat smaller than Peregrine falcons.
Weight: 37.0-45.9 Ounces
Length: 19.3-22.8 Inches
Wingspan: 48.0-49.2 Inches
This species has a unique appearance, which distinguishes them from other falcon species found in North America. Although they are common in Central America, these species are also found in southern states i.e. Texas and Arizona.
The head of a Caracara looks identical to a Vulture. The talons are large and sharp. In addition, they are also bigger than Peregrines falcons. Usually, this species is considered omnivores, yet they love to feed on carrion. Their habitat consists of high tree branches. However, they have also been seen perching on the ground.
Weight: 7.3-17.6 Ounces
Length: 15.0-16.9 Inches
Wingspan: 35.0 Inches
The Aplomado Falcon is normally found only in two of the US states i.e. New Mexico and Texas. Nevertheless, this species is scarcely found in both these states. Throughout the year, a sparse population normally stays close to the Mexican border.
In some cases, these falcons look identical to a large-sized American Kestrel. This is so, as they have streaks on their head and sides. Besides, they also have colorful plumage. Due to extreme rarity, Aplomado falcons are declared as an endangered species in the United States.
Collared Forest Falcon
Weight: 20-30 Ounces
Length: 18-23 Inches
Wingspan: 28-34 Inches
The Collared Forest falcon is occasionally seen in the Southern parts of the US and Mexico. However, they are more common in Central America. These species prefer to live in swampy forests and rainforests. They hunt small prey including small rodents and insects.
Forest falcons aren’t that common; hence, they are usually found in northern areas of South America. This species is less popular than other falcons discussed on the list. Hence, there isn’t much information about Collared Forest falcons.
- 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
- 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
- Peale’s Falcon
- Barbary falcon
- Pallid Falcon
- Eleonora’s Falcon
- Eurasian merlin
- Orange-breasted Falcon
- Bat falcon
- African hobby
- 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
Falcons are diurnal birds. They can live in almost every type of habitat including deserts, grassland, and coasts. The Falconidae family comprises almost sixty species. They can easily be found in every continent of the world except Antarctica. Wolves often eat falcons on the ground, while eagles and large owls hunt smaller falcon species in the air.
Let’s discuss the Falconidae Family more profoundly.
Kingdom: Animalia (Animals)
Phylum: Chordata (Chordates)
Subphylum: Vertebrata (Vertebrates)
Class: Aves (Birds)
Subclass: Neognathae (Northern birds)
Infraclass: Neoaves (Modern birds)
Order: Falconiformes (diurnal birds of prey)
Family: Falconidae (Falcons)
Subfamily: Falconinae (Falcons)
Genus: Falco (Falcons and Kestrels)
Falcons are a group of predatory or carnivorous birds quite similar to hawks and eagles. An almost broad family of birds, falcons differ from hawks and eagles genetically and taxonomically. Researchers characterize all members of the taxonomic family Falconidae as “falcons.” Later on, they divided the 64 different falcon species into two subfamilies.
The Polyborinae subfamily consists of the forest falcons and the caracaras. The Falconinae subfamily comprises the falconets and “true” falcons. Although the different groups vary a little bit, they all share the similar defining characteristics of falcons.
Falcons are diurnal birds of prey belonging to the family Falconidae, differentiated by their thin, tapered wings. Falcons are known for their fantastic flying capabilities. They have plumes or ‘flags’ on the legs. They also have a small projection in their beaks that is developed into a ‘tooth.’
When it comes to the appearance of a baby falcon, they look extremely adorable. Baby falcons are primarily covered in gray or white fluffy down feathers. The upper beak of hatchlings is light-blue in color, whereas the legs are gray.
Unlike eagles, hawks, and other raptor birds of the family Accipitridae, falcons utilize the ‘Tomial tooth’ (that is located on the side of the upper beak) to kill their prey.
Size: Their size differs depending on the species. The smallest Falcon is the Seychelles kestrel of length 9.8 in (25 cm) while the largest Gyrfalcon has 25.5 (65 cm).
Weight: The weight of falcons varies between 1.5 lbs. (0.7 kg) and 2.6 lbs. (1.2 kg)
Wingspan: Large falcon species such as Gyrfalcon can have a wingspan of 110-160 cm, whereas the Seychelles kestrel, which is the smallest species of the falcons, has a wingspan of 40-45 cm
Color: These birds typically are brown, yellow, white, gray, or black in color.
Eyes: Falcon’s eyes have a translucent eyelid and a much more large lens than humans.
Beak: They primarily have a notched beak with a tooth-like projection in contrast to the curved beak of hawks.
The Falcon is the fastest flying species among all the animals on the whole planet. When not hunting, this bird usually flies between 40 and 60 mph. However, when diving to grab its prey, the peregrine Falcon can reach speeds of up to 220 mph. What let it achieve such high rates when other birds cannot?
The Falcon has many features that set it apart from various other birds, making it one of a kind. It is the deadliest predator out there. These features are its keel, pointed wings, stiff feathers, and incredibly efficient respiratory and circulatory systems.
Falcons can easily be found almost everywhere on the earth, ranging from deserts, grasslands, forests, arctic tundra, and around water bodies, mainly along the coast.
Typically, one can observe Peregrine Falcons perching or nesting on
- Power pylons,
- Water towers,
- Cliffs, and
- Other tall structures
If a mudflat full of shorebirds and ducks suddenly erupts from the ground, observe the skies. A Peregrine (or Merlin) is most probably in the area. Peregrines can be observed all over North America, but they are much more common along coasts.
Over the period of time, Peregrine falcons have developed numerous behavioral adaptations. This helps them to enhance the chances of their survival in the wild. One of the adaptive behaviors relates to perching. Usually, Peregrine falcons prefer to perch on high trees and cliff ledges.
This helps to save the chicks from predators. Apart from this, perching on a tall cliff or tree also helps falcons while hunting. This is so, as height plays a key role when a Peregrine falcon is trying to attack prey. The fast speed and agility enhance the chances of successful hunting.
Being top predators, Peregrine falcons possess a strong territorial behavior. They ferociously guard their nesting site or territory when they are raising their young ones. Besides, these falcons are also known for spending a solitary life.
When migrating from one place to another, the adult Peregrine falcon will continue to live alone for 8 to ten months. In most cases, this species of falcon only spend 16 to 18 weeks with a mate. This is the time when the couple is mating and raising a family.
Besides, there are certain peregrines, which don’t migrate. These species stay on their territory throughout the year. They may guard their territory as a mated pair or alone. No other falcon is allowed to enter the territory of a Peregrine falcon. Even they don’t permit their own offspring to come back to the nesting area after they have started their independent life.
In fact, Peregrine falcons aren’t interested in building traditional nests. Usually, they can make good use of an already built nest. Even the nest consists of a depression in the soil or on a hard surface; Peregrines don’t want to lose their energy for building such a nest. These falcons try to save their energy for hunting.
Adaptation to Urban Environment
Another behavioral adaptation of Peregrine falcons is their ability to live and flourish in the urban environment. The availability of tall buildings gives them a reason to make use of such an excellent opportunity.
Apart from a lot of space to perch on, there is no scarcity of food. Cities have plenty of pigeons, which is a favorite food item for the Peregrine falcons. Hence, adapting to an urban habitat tends to be quite beneficial for this species.
The evolutionary history of hawks and falcons is somewhat similar. Both these birds of prey have developed strong talons, sharp beaks, and powerful eyesight. All these features allow these birds to catch and immobilize their prey.
All about diet and hunting styles
Depending on the habitat and type of species, falcons feed on a variety of prey. Discussed below is the preferred diet of falcons along with their unique hunting styles.
Being dominant predators, falcons generally hunt blackbirds, pigeons, shorebirds, ducks, gulls, grebes, starlings, jays, waterfowl, and songbirds.
They also steal preys, including lizards, frogs, insects, small snakes, and fish from other predatory birds.
Unlike most hawks, actual falcons do not build nests. In substitute, they may compile the substrate at the nesting site (usually tree cavities, cliffs, epiphytes, and tall urban structures) to produce a plain surface for the eggs. Falcons also use nests that have been already built by corvids and other birds of prey species.
Most falcon species are monogamous, breeding as lone pairs. They are known as territorial breeders and defend hunting territories around their nesting sites. Though the males usually perform courtship displays, the breeding couple seldom takes part in perched and flight displays accompanied by vocalizations.
A few species, usually Collared falconets, and Red-throated Caracaras present a polygynous mating system. Falcons breed once each year, usually between late winter and summer. Female Falcons lay 2-4 eggs every alternate day or every third day. Incubation lasts for almost 28-35 days, and the chicks become capable of flight after a fledging period of 4-8 weeks.
Mating Rituals of Peregrine Falcons
Before the Peregrines start to mate, the prospective couple will perform a variety of actions that are known as mating rituals or courtship displays. This helps to create a bond between both the male and female birds.
The mating rituals consist of the following actions:
Bowing act: This is a gesture where the male bow in front of a female and lifts his tail. While doing so, the male will keep its head low. This act is also referred to as the “Ledge Display”, which is normally performed when the male is standing at the nesting site. The male calls a female falcon by uttering specific sounds.
Scraping: During this process, a Peregrine falcon makes a dip inside the eyrie with help of its feet. It’s a way to create a new nesting site or clean the previous one by using the feet.
Food offering: During this courtship display, the male will offer food to the female falcon. If interested, the female will accept the food. The food exchange can take place either in the mid-air or on the nesting site.
These courtship displays have one goal and that is “Copulation”. So, once all the mating rituals are performed, the couple is ready to mate. The female usually perches on a convenient place before actually mating. Besides, the female will bow low and call the male.
The male flies towards the female carefully and lands on her back with his toes and talons curled. This helps to prevent hurting the back of the female. While on her back, the male maintains a balance with his wings.
The female raises her tail and the male lowers his tail to allow their cloacas to touch each other. This is referred to as the “Cloacal Kiss”). As a result, the sperms are eventually transferred to the female genitals. In order to keep their bond strong, the pair continues to mate even after the eggs have been laid.
The terminology “raptor” is of Latin origin, which refers “to carry away.” As mentioned earlier, those typically mean what birds of prey do; they carry away their target. People watch them with awe when a falcon swoops down to catch a small bird.
This community of high-flying fighters consists of falcons, hawks, eagles, owls, and osprey. Not only are these birds astonishing to view, but they do also play quite an essential role in performing duties for our environment. Ecology is taking benefits from raptors in more than one way.
Falcons are pretty efficient predators. They grab, kill, and eat a wide range of other small birds for their survival. This predation is not mean or wild. It has been going on after the world has come into being and is, in reality, a vital function that serves to preserve nature’s balance.
Birds of prey like Falcon are placed at the top of numerous food chains. Field rats, Mice, rabbits, other rodents, and squirrels, different kinds of insects, and reptiles, and other various small birds might be available in abundance due to desirable weather and a surplus of food.
Similarly, it also happens with fish, amphibians, and with snake populations too. Birds of prey aid in keeping in check and balancing the volume of these populations.
Raptors, like Falcon, have been termed as “ecological barometers,” which indicates they support us gauging how healthy our habitat looks. Birds of prey are responsive to several environmental fluctuations in an ecosystem.
They have incredibly sharp senses that even they can sense chemical and pollutant levels in the environment. Hence it can provide people an early warning of any approaching airborne threats.
While most of the smaller-sized raptors survive through feeding on insects, whereas larger ones survive feeding on prey like rodents. Many farmers genuinely thank them—for instance, the sizeable red-tailed hawk satisfies its hunger through feeding on rodents.
Grasshoppers, cutworms, rabbits, and field mice can destroy whole fields of crops if left to breed freely, and no birds of prey can feed on them. Handling pests in such a way is called biological control.
If a farmer can control pests through natural predation, the farmer does not require pesticides or insecticides. Apart from being beneficial for the farmers, this process of controlling pests can also help to protect our environment.
For example, the Falcon and other numerous enormous birds of prey feed primarily on weak or sick birds and animals. Rarely do they feed on the carcasses of dead animals. This feeding habit provides the environment to get rid of sick animals, birds, or their carcasses.
Hence, it helps to stop the fostering or spread of any disease that the animal was having. The stomach acids of the Falcons are such powerful that it is resistant to most bacteria and germs. It happens primarily because the falcons have been around 40 to 50 million years.
Besides the falcon bird practicing feeding on dead animals, numerous species of falcons are making the environment safe for other animals.
One may have noticed elegant depictions of Falconry, the art of practice, and utilizing falcons to hunt small animals and birds since the Middle Ages or the Renaissance. Such collaboration is much more classical—ancient artworks illustrating falconry date back at least 3,500 years to ancient Mesopotamia and Mongolia.
Whereas historically, Falconry was an elite and male-dominated project. We have records of various notable women enjoying the hobby, including Queen Elizabeth I, Mary, Queen of Scots, and Catherine the Great of Russia.
Yet Falconry is practiced universally, and there is even an international association for this practice, with more than 60,000 people.
Zoonoses are diseases transferred by the animal to a human, whether via direct or indirect contact. Numerous infections do not harm animals, but conditions can critically affect humans if humans get them accidentally. The diseases that humans can catch through Falcon are:
Mycobacterium Avium Complex (MAC)
The causation of avian tuberculosis happens due to the soil and droppings of infected Falcon found globally. Persons infected by MAC can acquire lymphadenitis & pulmonary disease, reasonably related to tuberculosis or more acute disseminated disease. Transmission of MAC usually happens fundamentally through aerosolization and via breathing in the air of dried falcon droppings and contaminated soil.
It is a fungus initially found in the droppings of pigeons and soil in various parts of the world. Disease in humans commonly presents as chronic meningitis; infection of the lungs, kidneys, prostate, and bone may also happen. Immunodeficient persons have heightened susceptibility to cryptococcosis and disseminated MAC infection. They should discuss with their physician before working with birds.
It is also a fungal disease spread from animals to people through inhaling dust contaminated air, through the fungus from pigeon or bat droppings. Fungal spores are typically found in the air, especially in areas where birds and bats reside.
Birds do not spread cath infection from exposure to histoplasmosis. Infections in humans are few. People who become sick are vulnerable to developing pneumonia-like signs (fever, chest pains, and dry or nonproductive cough) within 1–3 weeks following the exposure.
Erysipelas is a bacterial infection of chickens spread chiefly through close contact with animals, tissues, or droppings. The chance of acquiring the infection increases if one has unprotected wounds or abrasions on one’s hands. Disease in humans may be portrayed as the following:
It is also identified as psittacosis, parrot fever, and avian chlamydiosis, a bacterial disease that occurs by Chlamydophila psittaci and is typically present in parrots, turkeys, and parakeets, geese, pigeons, ducks, and other various birds. Birds might become sick or show none of the symptoms related to the disease.
Chlamydophila psittaci infections lead people eventually to develop flu-like symptoms and respiratory infections with complications sometimes. Such conditions in pregnant women have been linked to infectious abortion.
The spread usually occurs by breathing in air contaminated dried droppings, secretions, and feather dust of infected birds. Infected birds spread salmonellosis, cryptosporidiosis, and campylobacterosis via the following mediums:
- When coming in contact with fecal material
- Ingestion of fecal material accidentally
- Consumption of uncooked meat and egg products
Falcons infected by these diseases may have diarrhea and discolored droppings, but few birds might present no symptoms. Wild animals are more prone to get the infections mentioned above than those raised and housed in a lab setting. Any animal suffering from diarrhea should be suspected of suffering from the zoonotic disease.
Humans affected by such conditions typically have gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhea that is often passed out with blood, nausea, and abdominal pain with or without vomiting. They might also have a fever.
These are the type of bacteria that are naturally occurring bacteria in animals’ and humans’ gastrointestinal tracts. Some E. coli are deadly and can cause infections, especially in people with weaker immune systems.
E. coli infections can result from ingestion of fecal material or consumption of contaminated or undercooked food accidentally. Infected falcons usually do not show any signs, but people infected by fatal E. coli can have acute symptoms like diarrhea with blood and even lead to kidney failure.
- Spread of the virus through mosquito stings
- Eastern equine encephalitis virus
- West Nile virus,
- Other related arboviruses
The viruses listed above do spread the infection in poultry and other birds. They can be transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito and not by direct contact with infected Falcon.
Lyme disease is typically spread by birds that are wild and migratory. A black-legged tick will attach to its host and suck the blood for many days. For instance, the host animal has certain kinds of diseases in its blood, such as the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, which is found in ticks’ skin, it can cause Lyme disease.
In such a case, the tick may ingest the pathogen and become infected from any bird of prey, i.e. Falcon. If the tick later feeds on any human, that human can also become infected. The signs and symptoms incorporate skin rashes known as erythema migrans, fatigue, and fever headache. Immediately, Lyme disease should be treated, as it can affect the joints, heart, and nervous system.
What makes these birds so unique?
With a speed of 242 mph, falcons make the fastest bird species in the world. Their agile behavior can be rarely seen in any other birds. That is why falcons are also sometimes referred to as the relatives of leopards. Another fact that makes them unique is their adaptability. They are known as one of the most adaptable creatures that can even thrive in urban areas.
Falcons are also the only bird species having nostrils that are able to guide shock waves of air. Their agility and high speed don’t damage their lungs due to the high air pressure when they dive.
This natural design is unique and fascinating which is similar to a jet engine. Moreover, the eyesight of these birds is eight times better than humans. That is why they can easily see their prey even from a distance of 3 km. They are known to have a third eyelid as well which clears the debris and spreads the tears without blurring the vision during a dive. That is why, they are known as the most unique species that exists on earth.
How Peregrine Falcon can Fly so Fast
No doubt, Peregrine falcons are known as the fastest birds around the globe. When this bird is not hunting, it can achieve a speed of nearly 50 to 60 mph. Nevertheless, when a Peregrine dives for its prey, its average speed may reach up to 200 mph.
This is why most people are curious about a high speed of a Peregrine falcon. So, what makes it possible for the Peregrine to fly so fast? In fact, there are numerous features in the body structure of a Peregrine falcon, which allows them to fly at high speeds.
These features include:
- Specifically designed keel
- Pointed wings
- Stiff feathers
- Efficient circulatory and respiratory systems
Specifically designed keel
This is the most essential body part of a falcon’s body, which is a kind of modified breastbone. It is specialized for flying at fast speeds. The muscles used by a bird while flapping its wings are also attached to the keel. Due to the presence of a large keel, some additional muscles can attach to it. More muscles mean more flapping power, which in turn gives additional speed to the falcon.
The pointed wings of a Peregrine falcon also play a critical role when it comes to achieving extraordinary speed. Since the wings have a sleek and sweptback design, it helps to give a streamlined figure to the bird. With the curved wings, it is easy for the falcon to make an airfoil effect. This results in maximized speed and maneuverability.
Apart from other aspects, the feathers of a Peregrine falcon also play their key role when flying at high speeds. This particular species of falcons have stiff and slim feathers. This helps to minimize the drag and lowers the air friction. In addition, stiff feathers also give a sleek and well-toned appearance to these falcons.
Efficient circulatory and respiratory systems
Although the overall body design of a Peregrine falcon is aerodynamic, it won’t serve the purpose in absence of a highly efficient circulatory and respiratory system. Due to this feature, the Peregrine falcon can breathe easily at a speed of 200 mph.
This species can do this as its lungs have a one-way airflow. In addition, these birds have air sacs within their lungs. It helps to keep the lungs inflated even when the bird is exhaling. In addition, the heart of a Peregrine is strong too. It can beat 600 to 900 times/minute.
As a result, the oxygen continues to travel throughout the body of a Peregrine falcon even at high speeds. Furthermore, this reduces the chances of early fatigue. So, this bird of prey can flap its wings at a faster pace (4 times/seconds), which gives a boost to the overall flying speed of a Peregrine falcon.
It is recommended to every human being, especially those who have weak immune systems, to avoid activities such as
- Handling the contaminated products
- Going to the places where the Falcon droppings are present
- Cleaning chicken coops without wearing personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Exploring the caves where birds of prey reside
- Cleaning or reconstruction of old buildings as there are chances of presence of wild birds
For sure, it is a difficult task to differentiate between different kinds of birds of prey. This usually occurs when it comes to telling the difference between a Hawk and a Falcon.
However, there are some fundamental things to look out for that will assist in telling differentiating between them.
First and foremost, Falcons typically fall into the identical genus, Falco, while hawks fall into several genera. For instance, Falco Tinnuculus (Kestrel), Falco Peregrinus (peregrine falcon0, Accipiter gentilis Goshawk), Parabeuteo Unicinctus (Harris Hawk).
Next, falcons have a notch on their beak called a tooth, while hawks contain a primary curve of the brim. Through this, falcons use their beak usually to kill their prey by using the ‘tooth’ to grab the neck of their prey.
In contrast, hawks use the nails of the feet to their target. Typically, falcons hunt various birds and bats, while Hawks usually hunt rabbits, rats, and small mammals such as mice and voles. When a falcon garbs its prey in flight, this is regarded as “on the wing.”
Falcons are relatively fast in-flight, most notably the peregrine Falcon, while hawks are much slower in flight and would glide on a descent.
A peregrine falcon, for example, can attain speeds of 200 mph, whereas the red-tailed hawk dives at a rate of at least one hundred and twenty miles per hour.
Like other birds of prey, falcons and hawks do also portray sexual dimorphism. Sexual dimorphism happens when two sexes of the same species show other characteristics than the differences in their sexual organs.
For illustration, a male Harris Hawk might weigh approximately 1lb 2oz to 1lb 8oz, while the female of the Harris Hawk can weigh between 1lb 12oz to 2lb 6oz. Sexual dimorphism is shared among the Birds of Prey, and typically, the female of the species is always approximately ⅓ larger than their male counterpart.
The peregrine Falcon also offers the perfect model for threats to falcons and other birds of prey. This species faced a sharp decline in the population during the 1960s and 1970s due to harmful pesticides such as DDT. Lesser amounts of toxic pesticides accumulated in the birds’ systems from eating prey exposed to the pesticide.
Over time, this resulted in weakened eggshells laid by female Falcon, which can cause poor reproductive rates and even increased mortality rates in adult birds. By banning and intensive regulation of pesticides and conservation efforts, the peregrine falcon populations have bounced back completely.
The IUC (International Union for Conservation) of Nature listed the Falcon species in their “least concern” category. The impact on the species of falcons provides a grim example of the potential effects of pollution on falcons – and all predators.
All the animals or birds at the top of the food chain, from eagles to killer whales, face a threat from bioaccumulation of toxins. Still, the Peregrine Falcon shows us that regulation and conservation efforts can successfully reverse these impacts and save a species from extinction.
They’re the absolute hunters of the avian world—able to spot, track and kill the prey silently and efficiently. They’ve provided their respected name to one of the most famous Marvel superheroes, and humans have relied on them for millennia as powerful hunting partners. Now, we are sharing a few fascinating facts about the peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) in honor of the species’ growing appearance in the Super Bowl.
- Falcons are Fast… Fast
Peregrine falcons have been seen reaching speeds of 242 miles per hour while diving for prey, recognizing them the fastest recorded animal ever. To allow them to achieve such mind-blowing speeds, these birds boast aerodynamic torsos and especially pointed wings, moreover adapted cardiovascular and respiratory systems that will enable them to beat their wings approximately more than four times per second without fatiguing.
- Specific to the heritage of the UAE
These beautiful birds of prey are clever and can be trained for the popular sport of Falconry, one of the most popular sports in the UAE. Falcons are trained to swoop down and attack a decoy, tied to a string and controlled by the trainer. Once the Falcon can capture the seduction, it moves onto live prey. Training can be a long process, and the Falcon and its trainer form a powerful bond.
- Falcons mate for life
There’s no playing around option for these birds: Falcons devote themselves to one partner for all reproductive years. However, this doesn’t mean that they act like a married couple, for example, cooking dinner and playing Bingo together. Falcons only come closer to mate, and otherwise, they spend their whole lives as solitary hunters.
- They can see better than you
Scientists estimated that falcon vision is approximately eight times better than that of humans. This lets the birds spot small prey at a distance of almost two miles away and then swoop down softly to catch it. Evolution has performed its slow magic on the falcon eye to make it so worthwhile.
These birds have an extraordinary eyelid that moves from side to side, which is partially translucent. It allows them to see through it while still taking advantage of its protection. They also possess a ridge over their eyes that shade them from the sun and particular bones in their skull to keep their eyes in place while making sudden moves.
- Falcons are not picky eaters
One might think pigeons are resourceful when it refers to scrounging up lunch, but Peregrine falcons are assumed to hunt several thousand different kinds of species of small birds, vertebrates, and rodents for food. If they can spot it and grab it, they’re most likely to consume it.
- Extinction of Falcon in North America
Same as the iconic bald eagle, the peregrine Falcon highly suffered in North America from using the pesticide DDT. The chemicals accumulated in falcons’ prey kill the adult birds and weaken the shells of their eggs. The species almost went extinct before DDT was banned, but it has since recovered and was eliminated from the endangered species list in 1999.
- They aren’t just fast
Peregrine falcons are also powerful. They’re estimated to migrate as much as 15,500 miles a year, traveling between continents to mate or find food. Now that’s dedication.
- Falcons use their beaks as weapons
Unlike other birds of prey, which use only sharp talons on their feet to kill prey, falcons also have a fine-tooth at the end of their beak. With this tooth, falcons can easily sever the neck of their prey.
- A high school teacher named after the Falcons
In 1965, the new Atlanta, Georgia, futsal team crowdsourced name suggestions. A local school teacher named Julia Elliott suggested the name “falcons,” suggesting a bird worth admiring. “The falcon is dignified and proud, with great courage and fight,” Elliott wrote. “It never drops its prey. It is detrimental and has a great sporting tradition.”
- Falcon babies
Once the Falcon hatches its eggs, the parents spend approximately four to seven weeks raising its young ones. During the breeding season, both parents will defend their nests against other falcons and any potential predators.
- They travel in style
Falcons are the only birds in the United Arab Emirates legally allowed to travel on planes as passengers rather than cargo. However, they are only allowed to travel in business and first-class. To ensure they are not smuggled out of the UAE, each Falcon must have its passport.
- Bond with the trainer
The relationship between a falcon and its trainer is very close, and a significant amount of trust is shared between them. When the Falcons were trained for the first time, Falcons were looked after properly. As it is necessary to survive in the desert, hence Falcons were looked after like family members. Although they are used more for Falconry than survival these days, the bond is still important between a falcon and its trainer.
- The life expectancy of a peregrine falcon
The peregrine falcons can live up to 15 years. however, this is not common and among the young falcons, the mortality rate is sometimes 60% or even lower. It means that out of every 10 falcons, every 6 will die in the initial year of their life.
- Why don’t they sit on their eggs all the time like other birds?
Unlike other birds, Falcons don’t sit on their eggs all the time. They start incubation after the third or fourth egg. Before incubation, these birds mostly spend their time standing near the eggs to guard them. Once the process of incubation begins, the female falcons sit on the nest.
- Peregrine and their mating partners
Popular as “loyal” birds, falcons are perhaps among those rare bird species who keep on mating with the same partner every year. They only accept a replacement if the mating partner dies. That is why, falcons are also considered as Royal Bird Species due to their unique habits, ways of living, and hunting nature.
Here are the most common questions about the Falcons.
What is the average age of a falcon?
The life expectancy of a falcon may differ depending on its species. However, the mortality rate is relatively higher during the first year (60 to 80 percent). Hence, only a few of the falcons can reach adulthood. After attaining the age of maturity, a Peregrine falcon may live for 12 to 15 years.
When do falcons become sexually mature?
In most cases, falcons can become sexually mature after attaining two years of age. For instance, Peregrine falcons start mating after two or three years of their birth.
How to differentiate between a female and male falcon?
Distinguishing a male falcon from a female may turn out to be a difficult task even for experienced birdwatchers. The color and markings on their bodies are similar. Just like other raptors or birds of prey, the female falcons are larger when compared to their male counterpart.
If you are looking at a pair, it might be easy for you to judge the sex of a falcon by comparing the size and bulkiness of both birds. However, the difference is size isn’t always helpful. Especially, when you are looking at a single bird.
Where do Peregrine falcons go during the winter?
The female Peregrine falcons normally stay at the nesting site and don’t migrate even in the winter. This is so, as the climate isn’t that harsh and there is no scarcity of food. The climate is suitable, and there is plenty of prey available throughout the winter.
Apart from this, other species of falcon may or may not migrate. The Peregrine falcons located in northern areas of the US i.e. Greenland and Alaska do migrate to warmer places. Hence, they prefer settling in the Southern and Central parts of America.
Why do Peregrine falcons prefer buildings for nesting purposes?
When in the wild, Peregrine falcons choose ledges on the rock cliffs for making nests. However, in an urban environment, these falcons have adapted themselves to use the tall buildings for nesting. Skyscrapers are also similar to rock cliffs, as they are made of stones and concrete. So, Peregrines do prefer to inhibit high risers when living in cities.
How falcons make their nests
The nesting site in the wild is a cliff ledge. Sometimes falcons also use depressions in the tree branches. However, the nest doesn’t appear to be a traditional nest built out of sticks or other materials. A falcon lays its eggs in a simple scrape or depression created on the cliff ledge or high building.
For how long the nesting period continues
After mating, the female lays 3 to 4 eggs (usually after 2 to 3 days intervals). Both male and female falcons share the nesting responsibilities. This is mainly related to the incubation of the eggs. This starts with the laying of the last egg. It takes up to 32 days for each egg to hatch. So, the incubation period may stretch up to 35 days.
After hatching, the chicks receive constant brooding for a couple of weeks. During this period, the chicks are not left unattended. Nevertheless, after nearly 2 to 3 weeks, both the parents may leave the nest for a considerable time. This is so, as the parents need to constantly bring food for their extremely hungry chicks.
How much food does a falcon consume in a single day?
The diet of a flacon may differ depending on the type of species and weather. Typically, an adult peregrine can eat up to 2.5 ounces of food each day.
How caring Peregrine parents are?
Peregrine falcons are not that interested to develop a long-lasting love for their offspring. Although it is true that these species carefully raise their young ones, this attachment is only for a limited period.
After four to six weeks, the parents stop bringing food to the nestlings. Once the chicks have fledged, the parents teach them how to hunt. This is the time when young falcons have to feed themselves by hunting small prey. Eventually, they leave the territory once for all. The survival of the young falcons depends on their hunting skills.
How do the young peregrine falcons eat their food?
Unlike other birds, falcons are way different when it comes to their food and the style of hunting. These birds eat other birds as well as all the things that fly. A peregrine usually flies above the prey for some time, observes its pattern of movement, and then folds its wings before diving and stooping. They attack their prey with their half-closed foot and then retrieve the prey in the midair. They are extremely swift flyers and can easily hunt and grab their prey in mid-flight. This characteristic is not present in any other bird.
An adult peregrine consumes around 70 grams of food a day which is equal to around two blackbirds.
Do falcons migrate like other birds?
The pattern of movement of these birds is very unpredictable. Some falcons migrate during the weather changes and some don’t. The ones in the northern climates such as Alaska are the ones who migrate to other places during extreme weather conditions. It is not because they can not survive the harsh weather but because it is difficult for them to find their prey.
Allen and Belle are two species that don’t migrate because their food source remains adequate.
Falcons are hunters but are there any predators who prey on Falcons?
No predator can attack or prey on an adult falcon due to its swift speed. However, in remote areas, predators such as martins, snakes, and owls prey on baby falcons while they are still in their nests. This trend is not seen in urban areas.