Falconidae – Falcons

Peregrine falcons can exceed speeds of over 320 km/h (200mph) while ‘stooping’ to catch their prey

These birds of prey are widespread across the world and are known for their incredible hunting skills, high-speed flight, and exceptional adaptability to various environments.

Members of the Falconidae family are predominantly diurnal, active during the day when their keen vision is most effective for hunting. They are characterized by their sharp talons and pointed wings, which are designed for speed and agility. Their wings are long and thin, allowing for rapid flying and the ability to change direction swiftly, an advantage when pursuing agile prey or navigating through cluttered environments.

Falcons, in particular, have a unique method of hunting: they use their hooked beaks to deliver a fatal blow to their prey, contrasting with other raptors like eagles and hawks, which typically use their talons. The beak of a falcon has a special “tooth” or notch on the side, known as a tomial tooth, which they use to sever the spinal cords of their prey.

Kestrels are smaller members of the Falconidae family and are often seen hovering over open fields and meadows. This behavior allows them to spot and then dive down upon small mammals and insects hidden in the vegetation below.

Among the most extraordinary members of the family are the migratory species like the Saker and Amur falcons. The Amur falcon, in particular, undertakes a remarkable migratory journey, one of the longest of any bird of prey, flying from their breeding grounds in Eastern Asia all the way to Southern Africa and back each year. This journey is not only a testament to their endurance but also to their ability to navigate across continents.

Falcons have adapted to a wide range of habitats, from the tundra to the tropics. Many species have also adapted to urban environments, nesting on high-rise buildings, bridges, and other structures, which mimic their natural cliffside nesting sites. This adaptability has allowed species like the Peregrine falcon to become one of the most widespread birds of prey in the world.