Falconiformes – Falcons

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

This order boasts a diverse array of raptors and encompasses a variety of birds of prey such as falcons, kestrels, and caracaras. These birds are known for their hunting prowess, characterized by their diurnal habits, which means they are active during the day. Their morphology is specially adapted for hunting, with sharp talons for grasping and pointed wings that allow for swift, agile flight.

Unlike many other raptors that utilize their talons as primary weapons, Falconiformes typically employ their hooked beaks to deliver the killing blow to their prey. This beak is not only a tool for killing but also for consuming their catch, allowing them to tear flesh in a manner that is efficient and effective.

Kestrels, the smallest falcons in the family, are particularly notable for their ability to “hover.” This unique behavior involves them flapping vigorously while maintaining a headwind position so they can scan the ground below for potential prey. This adaptation is a mesmerizing sight and is an efficient hunting strategy in open fields and meadows.

In terms of habitat, falconiformes are not just confined to the wild. Many species, like the peregrine falcon, have shown remarkable adaptability by nesting in urban environments, often choosing skyscrapers and high-rise buildings as modern equivalents to their natural cliff-side nesting sites. This adaptation is beneficial in cities, where their prey, such as pigeons and other small birds, are abundant.

The cultural significance of Falconiformes is also notable. Falcons have been revered throughout history and across cultures as symbols of power, freedom, and nobility. Falconry, the sport of hunting with birds of prey, has been practiced for thousands of years and remains popular today, further highlighting the human fascination with these remarkable birds.