FALCONS AND CARACARAS FACTS
The birds in the falcon family are small to medium raptors (birds of prey). They include peregrines (PER-uh-grunz) , falconets, gyrfalcons (JERR-fal-kunz), merlins, kestrels, hobbies, and caracaras. They range in size from 5.5 to 25.6 inches (14 to 65 centimeters) from their beaks to the end of their tails. Like other raptors, falcons have sharp talons (claws) and hooked beaks, excellent eyesight, and pointed wings. Most falcons have feathers in shades of brown, black, white, and gray with some streaks or spots.
Falcons and caracaras live on every continent except Antarctica. They also live on many ocean islands.
FALCONS AND CARACARAS HABITAT
Birds in the falcon family live in almost every kind of land habitat. Many of the falcons that live in northern areas migrate to places where there is a better supply of food in winter.
FALCONS AND CARACARAS DIET
Falcons are carnivores (meat-eaters), and all but the caracaras feed on live animals. Some hunt other birds in the air and others grab animals on the ground. Kestrels hover above the ground, and many other falcons swoop down from perches. Although some falcons occasionally hunt in pairs, most of them hunt alone. They eat mostly birds, mammals, reptiles, and insects, and caracaras also eat carrion, including dead fish.
BEHAVIOR AND REPRODUCTION
Falcons are powerful predators, animals that hunt others for food, and they are most likely the fastest flying birds of prey. Most of them hunt during the day, but several species also hunt after dark.
Most species in this family breed once a year. Except for the caracaras, they do not build nests. They lay their eggs in holes in trees and rocky cliffs or in the old nests of other birds. Usually the female sits on the eggs and stays with the young while the male brings food to her and the chicks. Young falcons depend on their parents for help with catching food for a while after they can fly.
FALCONS, CARACARAS, AND PEOPLE
Falcons are admired for their flying and hunting skills, and they appear in legends and on flags and shields of many countries. In ancient Egypt, Horus was a god who looked like a falcon. About 4,000 years ago, people began to use falcons and hawks to capture meat for themselves. This is called falconry, and some people still practice it today.
Many falcons have been harmed by habitat loss, poisons, and people who do not like birds of prey. No species in the falcon family are listed as Endangered, but four of them are considered Vulnerable, facing a high risk of extinction. Six other species are listed as Near Threatened, close to becoming threatened, and could be heading for serious trouble.