Falcons – Feathered Flight Artists in the Sky

Falcons are raptors and they are small to medium-sized birds. They are the smaller brothers of the larger birds of prey. This is why falcons form a different order with the scientific name “Falconiformes”. The most noticeable features of falcons are pointed wings and always a quick and agile flight. Falcons can catch prey in air.

If you are interested in other raptors you can visit my site on Birds of Prey and Vultures of the world. For more information on vulture conservation and release into the wild please feel free to consult the page of the European Vulture Conservation Foundation at https://4vultures.org/.

lanner falcon medium-sized raptor
Lanner Falcon

The Falcons (Falconiformes) in the Western Palearctic

As already mentioned, falcons form a separate order from birds of prey, called Falconiformes. Although falcons also feed on prey, they are so special that are no longer classified as birds of prey. Falcons are special because of their specific built, behaviour and their way of catching their prey. All Falcons have a number of characteristics they all share with each other:

  • Size: small to medium-sized
  • mostly active during daylight
  • Diet consists mainly of small vertebrates and insects
  • Morphology: pointed wings, round head, dark large eyes, relatively short bill with a bulge in the upper beak (= the so-called falcon tooth)
  • Prey is mostly killed by biting in the prey’s neck
  • round nose holes
  • Falcons don’t built own nestsites
common kestrel falco tinnunculus
Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)

Globally there are 38 species classified as Falcons, whereas in the Western Palearctic (= Europe, Northern Africa and the Middle East) there are only 12 species of which only five are distributed within Europe. The European falcons are either breeding birds, winter guests or migrants. A taxonomy is given below:

  • Common Kestrel – Turmfalke – Faucon crécerelle (Falco tinnunculs)
  • Lesser Kestrel – Rötelfalke – Faucon crécerellette (Falco naumanni) – South and southeast Europe, Northern Africa
  • Red-footed Falcon – Rotfussfalke – Faucon kobez (Falco vespertinus) – migrant in eastern Europe, Black Sea, south Europe, Turkey, northern Africa from Tunesia to Israel
  • Eurasian Hobby – Baumfalke – Faucon hoberau (Falco subbuteo) – breeding bird in Germany and Central Europe
  • Eleonora’s Falcon – Eleonorenfalke – Faucon d’Élénore (Falco eleonorae) – Mediterranean area
  • Sooty Falcon – Schieferfalke – Faucon conolore (Falco conolor)
  • Peregrine Falcon – Wanderfalke – Faucon pèlerin (Falco peregrinus) – annual bird and winter guest in Europe
  • Barbary Falcon – Wüstenfalke – Faucon de Barbarie (Falco pelegrinoides) – Northern Africa, Middle East, Arabian peninsula, distributes further to the east into East Turkestan, Turkmenia, Uzbekistan and into Western Mongolia.
  • Merlin – Merlin – Faucon émerillon (Falco columbarius) – Winter guest and migrant in most of Europe
  • Gyrfalcon – Gerfalke – Faucon gerfaut (Falco rusticolus) – Norway, northern Finland and northern Russia
  • Saker Falcon – Würgfalke/Sakerfalke – Faucon sacre (Falco cherrug) – Southeast Europe, Middle East and further eastwards to the Caspian Sea
  • Lanner Falcon – Lannerfalke – Faucon lanier (Falco biarmicus) – Mediterranean Area
  • Laggar Falcon – Laggerfalke – Faucon laggar (Falco jugger) – Indian Subcontinent – used in falconry in Europe
  • American Kestrel – Buntfalke – Crécerelle d’Amérique (Falco sparverius)
saker falcon falco cherrug
Saker Falcon
saker falcon
Saker Falcon
Lanner Falcon
Lanner Falcon

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