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I Dream Africa

I Dream Africa

Falcon

   

Falconidae is a family of diurnal birds of prey. They differ from hawks, eagles, and kites in that they kill with their beaks instead of their feet. There are 62 species worldwide and 15 species which occur in Namibia.

Pygmy Falcon Polihierax semitorquatus


The African Pygmy-falcon (Polihierax semitorquatus) is a falcon that lives in eastern and southern Africa, the smallest raptor of the continent. As a small falcon, only 19 to 20 cm long, it preys on insects, small reptiles and even small mammals.

Description: Adult African Pygmy-falcons are white below and on the face, grey above, the female having a chestnut back. There are white "eye spots" on the nape. Juveniles have a brown back, duller than adult females, and a rufous wash on the breast. The flight feathers of the wings are spotted black and white (more black above, more white below); the tail is barred black and white.

The flight is low and undulating. In size, pattern, and the habit of perching upright on an exposed branch or treetop, this species resembles some shrikes.

The call is "a high-pitched kikiKIK, repeated" (Kenya)[1] or "a 'chip-chip' and a 'kik-kik-kik-kik'" (southern Africa).
Range, habitat, and population: The African Pygmy-falcon inhabits dry bush and occurs from Angola to northern South Africa. This range is estimated to have an area of 2.7 million km2, and the total population is estimated to be between 100,000 and 1 million birds.

In southern Africa, they are found around Red-billed Buffalo-weaver nests but predominantly nest in the vacant rooms of Sociable Weaver nests, which are large and multichambered—even if the Sociable Weavers still have an active colony in the nest. Despite being bird-eaters and bigger than Sociable Weavers, the Pygmy-falcons largely leave the latter alone, though they do occasionally catch and eat nestlings and even adults.

Polyandry: African Pygmy-falcons occasionally engage in polyandrous relationships, where there are more than two adults living together and tending nestlings. There are four potential reasons for this behavior: defense, co-operative polyandry, delayed dispersal of offspring, and thermoregulation (warmth). Corroboration for the last is that in winter African Pygmy-falcons nest further inside the nest of Sociable Weavers, where there is better insulation.

Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni


The Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni) is a small falcon. This species breeds from the Mediterranean across southern central Asia to China and Mongolia. It is a summer migrant, wintering in Africa and Pakistan and sometimes even to India and Iraq. It is rare north of its breeding range, and declining in its European range. The scientific name of this bird commemorates the German naturalist Johann Andreas Naumann.

It is a small bird of prey, 27–33 cm in length with a 63–72 cm wingspan. It looks very much like the larger Common Kestrel but has proportionally shorter wings and tail. It shares a brown back and barred grey underparts with the larger species. The male has a grey head and tail like male Common Kestrels, but lacks the dark spotting on the back, the black malar stripe, and has grey patches in the wings.

The female and young birds are slightly paler than their relative, but are so similar that call and structure are better guides than plumage. The call is a diagnostic harsh chay-chay-chay, unlike the Common Kestrel's kee-kee-kee. Both sexes do not have dark talons as usual in falcons; those of this species are a peculiar whitish-horn color. This, however, is only conspicuous when seen birds at very close range, e.g. in captivity.

The Lesser Kestrel eats insects, but also small birds, reptiles and rodents (especially mice), which are often taken on the ground. It nests colonially on buildings, cliffs, or in tree holes, laying up to 3-6 eggs. No nest structure is built, which is typical for falcons. Recent surveys (January 2007) by LPO have revealed that in their wintering grounds, Lesser Kestrels roost communally - sometimes in huge numbers. A roost discovered in Senegal during one of these surveys held 28,600 birds, together with 16,000 African Swallow-tailed Kites Chelictinia riocourii.

Eurasian Kestrel Falco tinnunculus

The Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) is a bird of prey species belonging to the kestrel group of the falcon family Falconidae. It is also known as the European Kestrel, Eurasian Kestrel, or Old World Kestrel. In Britain, where no other brown falcon occurs, it is generally just called "the kestrel".

This species occurs over a large range. It is widespread in Europe, Asia, and Africa, as well as occasionally reaching the east coast of North America. But although it has colonized a few oceanic islands, vagrant individuals are generally rare; in the whole of Micronesia for example, the species was only recorded twice each on Guam and Saipan in the Marianas.

Common Kestrels measure 32–39 cm from head to tail, with a wingspan of 65–82 cm. Females are noticeably larger, with the adult male weighing 136-252 g, around 155 g on average; the adult female weighs 154-314 g, around 184 g on average. They are thus small compared with other birds of prey, but larger than most songbirds. Like the other Falco species, they have long wings as well as a distinctive long tail.

Their plumage is mainly light chestnut brown with blackish spots on the upperside and buff with narrow blackish streaks on the underside; the remiges are also blackish. Unlike most raptors, they display sexual colour dimorphism with the male having less black spots and streaks, as well as a blue-grey cap and tail. The tail is brown with black bars in females, and has a black tip with a narrow white rim in both sexes. All Common Kestrels have a prominent black malar stripe like their closest relatives.

The cere feet, and a narrow ring around the eye are bright yellow; the toenails, bill and iris are dark. Juveniles look like adult females, but the underside streaks are wider; the yellow of their bare parts is paler. Hatchlings are covered in white down feathers, changing to a buff-grey second down coat before they grow their first true plumage.

Behaviour and ecology: In the cool-temperate parts of its range, the Common Kestrel migrates south in winter; otherwise it is sedentary, though juveniles may wander around in search for a good place to settle down as they become mature. It is a diurnal animal of the lowlands and prefers open habitat such as fields, heaths, shrubland and marshland. It does not require woodland to be present as long as there are alternate perching and nesting sites like rocks or buildings. It will thrive in treeless steppe where there are abundant herbaceous plants and shrubs to support a population of prey animals. The Common Kestrel readily adapts to human settlement, as long as sufficient swathes of vegetation are available, and may even be found in wetlands, moorlands and arid savanna.

Food and feeding: When hunting, the Common Kestrel characteristically hovers about 10–20 m above the ground, searching for prey, either by flying into the wind or by soaring using ridge lift. Like most birds of prey, Common Kestrels have keen eyesight enabling them to spot small prey from a distance. Once prey is sighted, the bird makes a short, steep dive toward the target. It can often be found hunting along the sides of roads and motorways. This species is able to see near ultraviolet light, allowing the birds to detect the urine trails around rodent burrows as they shine in an ultraviolet colour in the sunlight. Another favourite (but less conspicuous) hunting technique is to perch a bit above the ground cover, surveying the area. When the birds spot prey animals moving by, they will pounce on them. They also prowl a patch of hunting ground in a ground-hugging flight, ambushing prey as they happen across it.

Common Kestrels eat almost exclusively mouse-sized mammals: typically voles, but also shrews and true mice supply up to three-quarters or more of the biomass most individuals ingest. On oceanic islands (where mammals are often scarce), small birds – mainly passerine – may make up the bulk of its diet while elsewhere birds are only important food during a few weeks each summer when unexperienced fledglings abound. Other suitably-sized vertebrates like bats, frogs and lizards are eaten only on rare occasions. Seasonally, arthropods may be a main prey item. Generally, invertebrates like camel spiders and even earthworms, but mainly sizeable insects such as beetles, orthopterans and winged termites are eaten with delight whenever the birds happen across them.

Greater Kestrel Falco rupicoloides

The Greater Kestrel or White-eyed Kestrel (Falco rupicoloides) is a bird of prey belonging to the falcon family Falconidae. It is one of the largest kestrels and is found in open country in southern and eastern Africa.

The plumage of the adult is mainly pale rufous, both above and below. The back, upperwing and flanks are barred with black. The breast has dark streaks and the head is streaked but has no malar stripe unlike the Common and Lesser Kestrels. The rump and tail are grey with black bars; the tail has a white tip. In flight, the whitish underwing contrasts with the darker body. The iris of the eye is whitish, distinguishing the bird from any similar species. The bill is mainly blue-grey and the feet and cere are yellow. Juvenile birds have rufous instead of grey on the tail, streaked flanks and a dark eye.

Habitat and range: It occurs in open, arid areas where it inhabits grassland, savannas and semi-desert. It is often associated with acacias. It prefers areas where the ground cover is lower than 50 cm. It is found from sea-level up to 2150 metres, particularly between 800 and 1800 metres.

It is fairly common and widespread in the southern parts of its range but is scarce and patchily distributed further north. The form F. r. rupicoloides breeds in Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, parts of Angola and Zambia and in much of South Africa apart from the wetter regions of the south and east. F. r. arthuri is found in Kenya and northern Tanzania while F. r. fieldi occurs in Ethiopia, Eritrea, northern Somalia and probably northern Kenya.

Feeding: The Greater Kestrel usually hunts from an exposed perch such as a tree or rock. It also hovers like several other kestrels. It feeds mainly on invertebrates such as grasshoppers, termites, beetles and solifugids. It also takes lizards and sometimes small birds, mammals and snakes. It mainly catches prey on the ground. It is attracted to fires where it catches insects and other prey as they flee from the flames. Excess food may be cached underneath vegetation or stones.

Breeding: The breeding season varies between different regions. In the south it lasts from July to April with a peak between September and December. Breeding takes place in all months in Kenya and Tanzania but is concentrated between April and July. The season lasts from April to August in Somalia
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Grey Kestrel Falco ardosiaceus

The Grey Kestrel (Falco ardosiaceus) is an African bird of prey belonging to the falcon family Falconidae. Its closest relatives are the Banded Kestrel and Dickinson's Kestrel and the three are sometimes placed in the subgenus Dissodectes.

Description: It is a fairly small, stocky kestrel with a large, flat-topped head and fairly short wings that don't reach past the tip of the tail when at rest. It is 28–33 cm long with a wingspan of 58–72 cm and a weight of up to 300 grams. The female is 4-11% larger and 5-11% heavier than the male. The plumage of the adult is uniformly dark grey apart from darker wingtips, faint dark streaking on the body and slightly barred flight feathers. The feet and cere are yellow and there is bare yellow skin around the eye. The most similar species is the Sooty Falcon which has a more rounded head, long wings extending past the tail and less yellow around the eye.

Juvenile Grey Kestrels are browner than the adults with a greenish cere and greenish around the eye. Juvenile Dickinson's Kestrels are similar but have a barred tail and a more strongly barred underwing.

The Grey Kestrel is generally silent outside the breeding season but has a shrill, chattering call and a rattling whistle.
Habitat and range: It inhabits savannas, open woodland and forest clearings. It favours areas with palm trees, especially near water. It often perches on exposed branches, telegraph poles and wires.

It is widespread in West and Central Africa but is absent from densely forested regions including parts of the Congo Basin. Its range extends east to Ethiopia and western parts of Kenya and Tanzania. In the south it reaches northern parts of Namibia and Zambia and vagrants have appeared in Malawi. The total range covers about 12 million km². In West Africa there is some movement northward in the wet season and southward in the dry season.

Behaviour: It is a crepuscular bird, most active at dawn and dusk. It generally hunts from a high perch but occasionally hovers. It feeds mainly on insects, lizards and small mammals such as bats but will also take birds, amphibians and worms. Prey is usually caught on the ground. It will sometimes feed on oil palm nuts, one of the few birds of prey to eat vegetable matter.

Breeding occurs from March to June in the north of its range and from August to December in the south. Courting pairs perform mutual soaring displays. The eggs are usually laid in the nest of a Hamerkop; most often an unoccupied nest but occasionally Hamerkops will be forced out. Sometimes the kestrels will use the nest of another bird or a hole in a tree. There are two to five eggs in a clutch. They are whitish with reddish or brown markings and are incubated for 26–31 days. The young birds fledge after about 30 days.

Dickinson's Kestrel Falco dickinsoni

Dickinson's Kestrel (Falco dickinsoni) is a bird of prey of southern and eastern Africa belonging to the falcon family Falconidae. It is named after John Dickinson, an English physician and missionary who collected the type specimen. It is also known as the White-rumped Kestrel. Its closest relatives are the Grey Kestrel and Banded Kestrel and the three are sometimes placed in the subgenus Dissodectes.

Description: It is a fairly small, stocky kestrel with a large, square head. It is 27-30 cm long with a wingspan of 61-68 cm and a weight of 167-246 grams. The female is about 4% larger and 10-20% heavier than the male. The plumage is mostly dark grey with a pale head and rump. The tail is grey with narrow black bars and a broad subterminal band. The underside of the flight feathers are also barred. The cere and feet are yellow and there is bare yellow skin around the eye. The bill is dark grey and the eyes are brown. Juvenile birds are grey-brown with barred flanks and without the paler head and rump. They have a greenish cere and eye-ring.

It is usually silent but has a high-pitched alarm and contact call. At the nest, a soft, mewing call attracts the young for feeding.

Habitat and range: It inhabits savanna and open woodland, particularly swampy areas near water. It is typically associated with palm trees (such as Hyphaene and Borassus species) and is also often found near baobab trees. It occurs in coconut plantations in some areas.

Its range covers most of Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi along with north-eastern South Africa (mainly in Kruger National Park), northern Botswana, north-east Namibia, eastern Angola, southern Democratic Republic of the Congo and parts of Tanzania. It is an occasional visitor to Kenya. The total range is about 3.4 million km2. It is generally rather scarce but is commoner in some areas such as Zanzibar and Pemba Islands. Loss of palm trees is a potential threat to the species.

Behaviour: It usually hunts from a perch and only occasionally hovers. Large insects such as grasshoppers form the bulk of the diet. It also feeds on lizards and amphibians and sometimes birds, bats, rodents and snakes. It is often attracted to grass fires where it preys on fleeing insects and other prey.

The breeding season lasts from July to October in Tanzania and September to December further south. The nest is a simple scrape with no material used. It is sited 2 to 18 metres above the ground in the crown of a dead palm or in a hole in a baobab. Sometimes the old nest of a Hamerkop is used. One to four eggs are laid. They are cream-coloured with reddish-brown markings and are incubated by the female for at least 30 days. The young birds fledge after approximately 33 to 35 days.

Red-necked Falcon Falco chicquera

The Red-necked Falcon or Red-headed Merlin (Falco chicquera) is a bird of prey in the falcon family. This bird is a widespread resident in India and adjacent regions as well as sub-Saharan Africa. It is sometimes called Turumti locally.

The Red-necked Falcon is a medium-sized, long-winged species with a bright rufous crown and nape. It is on average 30–36 cm in length with a wingspan of 85 cm. The sexes are similar except in size: males are smaller as females as is usual in falcons. Young birds are buff below with less extensive barring and duller upper plumage.

The adult of the African subspecies Falco chicquera ruficollis has a white face apart from black moustachial stripes. The upperparts are pale grey, with black primary wing feathers and tail tip. The underparts are white with dark barring on the underwings, lower breast, belly and undertail. There is a buff foreneck band. The legs and eyering are yellow. The voice of this species is a shrill kek-kek-kek.

West African males are known to weigh between 139 and 178 grams, while females are found between 190 and 305 grams. The particularly large African birds from south of the Zambezi River are often separated as subspecies Falco chicquera horsbrughi, but the size variation may be clinal and the latter subspecies not valid.

The Red-necked Falcon is found in semi-desert, savannah and other dry open country with some trees, but also riverine forest. It often perches hidden in the crown of a Borassus palm (Borassus aethiopium), and chases birds, bats and large insects with a fast dashing flight. It is most active at dawn and dusk, hunting below the tree canopy. It often hunts in pairs, sometimes utilizing a technique in which one of the pair flies low and flushes up small birds while the other follows higher up and seizes the prey as it rises from cover.

This falcon reuses the old tree nests of corvids, or lays its 3-5 eggs in the debris in the crown of a palm tree.

Red-footed Falcon Falco vespertinus


The Red-footed Falcon (Falco vespertinus), formerly Western Red-footed Falcon, is a bird of prey. It belongs to the family Falconidae, the falcons. This bird is found in eastern Europe and Asia although its numbers are dwindling rapidly due to habitat loss and hunting. It is migratory, wintering in Africa. It is a regular wanderer to western Europe, and in August 2004 a Red-footed Falcon was found in North America for the first time on the island of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.

It is a medium-small, long-winged species. The adult male is all blue-grey, except for his red undertail and legs; its underwings are uniformly grey. The female has a grey back and wings, orange head and underparts, and a white face with black eye stripe and moustaches.

Young birds are brown above and buff below with dark streaks, and a face pattern like the female. Red-footed Falcons are 28-34 centimeters in length with a wingspan of 65-75 centimeters.

This is a diurnal bird of open country with some trees, often near water. Its distinctive method of hunting is shared by the Common Kestrel. It regularly hovers, searching the ground below, then makes a short steep dive towards the target. The Red-footed Falcon's main prey is large insects, but it will also take small mammals and birds.

This falcon is a colonial breeder, reusing the old nests of corvids, such as Rooks. It lays two to four eggs.

Amur Falcon Falco amurensis

The Amur Falcon (Falco amurensis), formerly Eastern Red-footed Falcon, is a small raptor of the falcon family. It breeds in south-eastern Siberia and Northern China, wintering in Southern Africa. Its diet consists mainly of insects, such as termites.

Description: Males are characteristically dark sooty brown, and may offer confusion with melanistic Gabar Goshawk, but the chestnut on the vent should prevent confusion here. Also there may be some superficial resemblance to Sooty Falcon and Grey Kestrel, but those two species both have yellow feet and cere. Separating male Amur and Red-footed Falcons is best done by the white underwing coverts on Amur Falcon, whereas the underwing of male Red-footed Falcons is uniformly grey.

Females may offer a bit more confusion with a wider range of falcons as they have a typical falcon head pattern. The grey on the top of the head should quickly rule out confusion with Red-footed Falcons. The female has barring on the lower belly. Red cere and feet rule out all other falcons.

For juveniles, red feet should restrict ID to the Amur and Red-footed group, and the darker crown and lack of buff all the way up the belly rules out Western Red-footed Falcon. Females and juveniles lack the buff underwing coverts of Red-footed Falcon.

Sooty Falcon Falco concolor

The Sooty Falcon (Falco concolor ) is a medium-sized falcon breeding from northeastern Africa to the southern Persian Gulf region. It belongs to the hobby group, a rather close-knit number of similar falcons often considered a subgenus Hypotriorchis. Eleonora's Falcon is sometimes considered its closest relative, but while they certainly belong to the same lineage, they do not seem to be close sister species.

This is an elegant bird of prey, 32–37 cm long with a 78–90 cm wingspan. It is shaped like a large Hobby or a small Eleonora's Falcon, with its long pointed wings, long tail and slim body. The adults are blue-grey, and lack the black underwing coverts of the Eleonora’s Falcon. The young bird is like a large juvenile Hobby, or small juvenile Eleanora’s Falcon. Its dark trailing edge to the wings and tail distinguish it from the former species, and it lacks the underwing contrast caused by the dark coverts of the larger falcon.

This species breeds on islands and coastal or desert cliffs from Libya to Pakistan). It is a long-distance migrant, wintering in east Africa and south to Madagascar. It is a rare vagrant north of its breeding range.

The Sooty Falcon eats mainly birds, but it will take large insects, such as dragonflies, which are transferred from talons to beak and eaten in flight. It nests on a ledge or on rocks, laying up to four eggs.

Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo


The Eurasian Hobby (Falco subbuteo), or just simply Hobby, is a small slim falcon. It belongs to a rather close-knit group of similar falcons often considered a subgenus Hypotriorchis.

Description: Adults are slate-grey above with a dark crown and 2 short black moustachial stripes. The throat is unstreaked white, thighs and undertail coverts are unstreaked rufous and rest of the underparts are whitish with black streaks. Close views enable the red "trousers" and vent to be seen. Sexes are similar. Juveniles are generally much browner, with scaled upper parts and streaked buffy thighs and undertail coverts.

Distribution: This species breeds across Africa, Europe and Asia. It is a long-distance migrant, wintering in Africa and Asia.

Behaviour and ecology:It is a bird of open country such as farmland, marshes, taiga and savannah. They are widespread in lowlands with scattered small woods. It is an elegant bird of prey, appearing sickle-like in flight with its long pointed wings and square tail, often resembling a swift when gliding with folded wings. It flies powerfully and fast. It will take large insects, such as dragonflies, which it transfers from talons to beak and eats while soaring slowly in circles. It also captures small bats and small birds like swallows, swifts, pipits etc. in flight. Its speed and aerobatic skills enable it to take swallows and even swifts on the wing, and Barn Swallows or House Martins have a characteristic "hobby" alarm call. It is known to harass swallows while they are roosting and dispersing from roosts. When not breeding, it is crepuscular, hawking principally in the mornings and evenings. While on migration, they may move in small groups.

Hobbies nest in old nests of crows and other birds. The tree selected is most often one in a hedge or on the extreme edge of a spinney, whence the bird can observe intruders from a considerable distance. It lays 2-4 eggs. Incubation is said to take 28 days and both parents share in this duty, though the female does the greater part.

It is a very bold and courageous bird and was used in falconry, trained to hawk birds like quails, larks, hoopoes, drongos etc.

African Hobby Falco cuvierii

The African Hobby (Falco cuvierii) is a species of bird of prey in the Falconidae family. It is found in Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Lanner Falcon Falco biarmicus

The Lanner Falcon (Falco biarmicus) is a large bird of prey that breeds in Africa, southeast Europe and just into Asia. It is mainly resident, but some birds disperse more widely after the breeding season.

It is a large falcon, at 43–50 cm length with a wingspan of 95–105 cm. European Lanner Falcons (Falco biarmicus feldeggi, also called Feldegg's Falcon) have slate grey or brown-grey upperparts; most African subspecies are a paler blue grey above. The breast is streaked in northern birds, resembling greyish Saker Falcons, but the Lanner has a reddish back to the head. Sexes are similar, but the browner young birds resemble Saker Falcons even more. However, Sakers have a lighter top of the head and less clear head-side patterns. The Lanner's call is a harsh "wray-e".

In the wild Lanner Falcon numbers are somewhat declining in Europe, though the species remains relatively common in parts of Africa

Taita Falcon Falco fasciinucha

The Taita Falcon (Falco fasciinucha) is one of the smallest falcons in the Southern African Sub-region. It was first described from the Taita Hills of Kenya from which it derives its name. It is spread throughout the eastern portion of subsaharan Africa but is mostly found in Kenya. There are a few nesting sites in Zimbabwe (Zambezi River) and Northeastern South Africa. It is also rather scarce and relatively endangered. In Southern Africa itself, there are a few regular breeding sites where the birds can regularly be found.

Its courting and mating period is similar to that of the Peregrine Falcon. The same applies to its vocal as well as territorial preference.

Description: This small falcon is fairly distinctive, but may offer some confusion with a few other species.The rufous belly causes resemblance with African Hobby, but important features to look out for are a white throat and the obvious rufous patches on the nape. Also the underwing coverts are uniform rufous whereas in African Hobby has more streaking. The most obvious underwing feature though is the fact that the flight feathers are barred black and white where as there is much more rufous in the flight feathers of African Hobby.The robust, long-winged Taita Falcons have a short tail. Their flight is fast and somewhat heavy looking, but they are adept at aerial hunting.

Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus

The Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), also known as the Peregrine, is a cosmopolitan bird of prey in the family Falconidae. The Peregrine is renowned for its speed, reaching speeds of over 320 km/h during its characteristic hunting stoop, making it the fastest extant member of the animal kingdom.

It is a large, crow-sized falcon, with a blue-gray back, barred white underparts, and a black head and "moustache".

It can be found nearly everywhere on Earth, except extreme polar regions, very high mountains, and most tropical rainforests; the only major ice-free landmass from which it is entirely absent is New Zealand. This fact makes it the world's most widespread bird of prey.

While its diet consists almost exclusively of medium-sized birds, the Peregrine will occasionally hunt small mammals, small reptiles or even insects. Reaching sexual maturity at one year, it mates for life and nests in a scrape, normally on cliff edges or, in recent times, on tall human-made structures.

Description: The Peregrine Falcon has a body length of 34 to 58 centimeters and a wingspan of around 80 to 120 centimeters. The male and female have similar markings and plumage, but as in many birds of prey the Peregrine Falcon displays marked reverse sexual dimorphism in size, with the female measuring up to 30 percent larger than the male.

The back and the long pointed wings of the adult are usually bluish black to slate gray with indistinct darker barring; the wingtips are black. The white to rusty underparts are barred with thin clean bands of dark brown or black. The tail, colored like the back but with thin clean bars, is long, narrow and rounded at the end with a black tip and a white band at the very end. The top of the head and a "mustache" along the cheeks are black, contrasting sharply with the pale sides of the neck and white throat. The cere is yellow, as are the feet, and the beak and claws are black The upper beak is notched near the tip, an adaptation which enables falcons to kill prey by severing the spinal column at the neck. The immature bird is much browner with streaked, rather than barred, underparts, and has a pale bluish cere and orbital ring.

The Peregrine Falcon lives mostly along mountain ranges, river valleys, coastlines, and increasingly in cities. In mild-winter regions, it is usually a permanent resident, and some individuals, especially adult males, will remain on the breeding territory. Only populations that breed in Arctic climes typically migrate great distances during the northern winter. The Peregrine Falcon is often stated to be the fastest animal on the planet in its hunting dive, the stoop, which involves soaring to a great height and then diving steeply at speeds commonly said to be over 320 km/h and hitting one wing of its prey so as not to harm itself on impact. A study testing the flight physics of an "ideal falcon" found a theoretical speed limit at 400 km/h for low altitude flight and 625 km/h for high altitude flight.

Feeding: The Peregrine Falcon feeds almost exclusively on medium sized birds such as doves, waterfowl, songbirds, waders and pigeons. Worldwide, it is estimated that between 1,500 and 2,000 bird species (up to roughly a fifth of the world's bird species) are predated by these falcons. Prey also include the small raptor, the American Kestrel. Other than bats taken at night, it rarely hunts small mammals, but will on occasion take rats, voles, hares, shrews, mice and squirrels;

The Peregrine Falcon hunts at dawn and dusk, when prey are most active, but in cities also nocturnally, particularly during migration periods when hunting at night may become prevalent. Nocturnal migrants taken by Peregrines include species as diverse as Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Black-necked Grebe, Virginia Rail and Common Quail. It requires open space in order to hunt, and therefore often hunts over open water, marshes, valleys, fields and tundra. It searches for prey either from a high perch or from the air. Once prey is spotted, it begins its stoop, folding back the tail and wings, with feet tucked. The air pressure from a 200 mph dive could possibly damage a bird's lungs, but small bony tubercles on a falcon's nostrils guide the powerful airflow away from the nostrils, enabling the bird to breathe more easily while diving by reducing the change in air pressure.

To protect their eyes, the falcons use their nictitating membranes (third eyelids) to spread tears and clear debris from their eyes while maintaining vision. Prey is struck and captured in mid-air; the Peregrine Falcon strikes its prey with a clenched foot, stunning or killing it, then turns to catch it in mid-air. The Peregrine will drop it to the ground and eat it there if it is too heavy to carry. Prey is plucked before consumption.

Relationship with humans: The Peregrine Falcon became an endangered species because of the use of organocholorine pesticides, especially DDT during the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. Pesticide biomagnification caused organochlorine to build up in the falcons' fat tissues, reducing the amount of calcium in their eggshells. With thinner shells, fewer falcon eggs survived to hatching.

   
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