Falcons are related to other birds of prey such as hawks, eagles and vultures but fall into their own the Falconidae family which includes around 60 species of birds. A subset of the Falconidae group are the four Falco groups two smaller the Kestrel and the Merlin and the two larger Peregrine and desert falcons. All falcons are hunters either of insects, reptiles or birds or mammals. The female falcons are larger than the males – we are not sure why but it may have to do with egg laying.
Learn about the family Falconidae or falcons. These birds of prey are fascinating and beautiful. Hunters train them.
Those who train falcons are known as falconers. I live near the Air Force Academy where they use the falcon as their mascot and have a specific group of falconers. Falcons have historically been associated with war. The Arabs and Iranians have a word for the peregrine which is Shaheen which is the Farsi word for emperor. These aerial predators are military favorites and mascots.
Some people say that Falconry is not a sport - it's a virus or an addiction. Falconry is using trained birds of prey to catch wild game. It is frowned on unless you eat the game. Who wants to try it?
Falcon eye sight is fabulous and helps them to be able to hunt successfully. While man can cannot see more than 20 events per second, the falcon can see 70 to 80. That is what makes them able to reach out and snatch a dragon fly out of the sky.
The American Kestrel
The American Kestrel is one of the smallest falcons, but also one of the most colorful and pretty! They eat smaller birds such as sparrows and starlings as well as small rodents like mice.
When you see a kestrel fly they fly with jet like wings. They have fake eyes on the back of their heads. They have the strongest feet to body weight of any raptor!
The Merlin is Shown Above
The Merlin Falcon is the smallest of the falcons. They are also known as the pigeon hawk and they hunt small song birds, duck, pheasant, and prairie chickens and quail. They bite the neck of their victims with their "toenail teeth" on their talons and that kills them. Ladies used to hunt with them and therefore their nickname "lady hawk". Their chest is usually heavily streaked and the underwings are dark.
The Gyr Falcon
I bet you didn't know that the Gyr falcon is faster that the Peregrin. They can fly at 353 miles per hour! and 87 mph in level flight. It's true and that is why falconers absolutely love Gyrs. They are native to the Arctic Circle, Canada and Alaska.
They usually eat cats, ptarmagin and geese.
The Peregrin Falcon
The Peregrin has learned to live in cities and to breed in captivity. At one time they were very endangered by the pesticile DDT, because their eggs would get so thin if the mom tried to roost the eggs would break. But this bird is a wanderer and now they are found on every continent because they are so adaptable.
This is a fast falcon who has baffles in their nose (similar to a jet) to help them to breath in a dive. Their feathers are thick and stiff. They can dive at 240 mph (pretty fast but slower than the gyr falcon) and their impact is what kills their prey.
Get Helen Macdonald's Book
Find this book Falcon and read it or gift it. Helen Macdonald is also the author of H is for Hawk. I recommend both books. Helen is British.