The Lanner Falcon, also known as Falco biarmicus, is a medium-sized bird of prey that resides in Africa, southeast Europe, and several parts of Asia. It belongs in the family Falconidae, together with Collared Forest Falcon, Lined Forest Falcon, Chimango Caracara, Collared Falconet, Peregrine Falcon, and other falcon species.
The Lanner Falcon was first described in 1825 by Dutch zoologist Coenraad Jacob Temminck. The term “falco” was a Late Latin term for “sickle.” The Lanner Falcon is believed to be the oldest living hierofalcon species. There are five recognized subspecies of Lanner Falcon:
- b. feldeggii – Found in southeastern Europe and western Asia
- b. biarmicus – The nominate subspecies that is found from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, southern Kenya, and South Africa
- b. tanypterus – Found in northeastern Africa, Arabia, Israel, and Iraq
- b. erlangeri – Found in northwestern Africa
- b. abyssinicus – Located in southern Mauritania, Ethiopia, Somalia, south Cameroon, and northern Kenya
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List classified the Lanner Falcon as Least Concern since their general population is at a stable rise. However, declining populations in Europe have made them Endangered in the continent.
Its eight levels of scientific classification are as follows:
Species: F. biarmicus
The physical characteristics of a Lanner Falcon
The Lanner Falcon is a medium-sized bird that measures 35 to 50 cm, with a wingspan of 90 to 110 cm. A female Lanner Falcon is heavier than a male, weighing between 700 to 900 g, whereas a male Lanner Falcon weights from 500 to 600 g. The back of a Lanner Falcon is slate gray, while juveniles are brown. Both adults and juveniles have reddish-brown or off-white undersides with gray streaks. Subspecies living north of its range have undersides with black spots, while southern species have sparse spots on the undersides.
Its head is reddish-brown or white with a distinct black mustache-like stripe. Female Lanner Falcons have darker colors than the opposite sex.
The distribution and habitat of Lanner Falcons
Lanner Falcons exists in the central and eastern Mediterranean region, southeastern Europe, and southern Africa. Since they are primarily sedentary birds, they do not migrate a lot, but African species, especially non-breeding adults and juveniles, wander extensively. They move according to weather patterns, moving to arid areas after the wet season and moving out of densely forested regions during heavy rains.
They can be found in several habitats, such as dry areas near sea level to wet, forested mountains. These birds of prey require large, open areas, lightly wooded areas, and/or rocky formations such as cliffs for nesting. Some species can be also seen near the ground of desert areas.
The behavior of a Lanner Falcon
Lanner Falcons have so-called binocular vision, which allows them to spot prey from a vast distance. Their eyesight is believed to be eight times better than human eyesight. They are famed for their agility and swiftness in flight, paired with its loud “kak-kak” call. They are solitary birds outside the mating season, frequently seen hunting in pairs when searching for larger prey. Cooperative hunting tactics are helpful, especially when there are young Lanner Falcons. Adults teach the young to catch prey during flight.
The breeding season for Lanner Falcons varies throughout its range. Those that are living north of its worldwide range have a breeding period from February to May. In Sahara, northeastern, and western Africa, the laying period occurs between January to March. In central, southern, and east Africa, it takes place from June to November. A female Lanner Falcon will lay three to four eggs, which will be incubated for at least 32 days.
The diet of a Lanner Falcon
Like other falcon species, Lanner Falcons feed mostly on either small or large birds, including ducks, larks, sandgrouse, doves, poultry, and small raptors. On rare occasions, as a biologist once observed, a Lanner Falcon can attack a bustard, which is about two to three times heavier than itself.
A Lanner Falcon’s diet also includes small mammals, bats, rodents, fat sand rat, common gundi, Eastern rock elephant shrew, lizards, insects, termites, snakes, locusts, and grasshoppers. It hunts in flight or by flying low over the ground or along slopes and cliffs.
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