Falcon, Lanner Falco biarmicus
The name falcon originates from Latin falco; falconis
, meaning with tallons in the shape of a scythe
. The Lanner Falcon is presumed to be the oldest living hierofalcon
species, the lineage being 130,000 to 200,000 years old.
In Europe they are bred in captivity for falconry. Lanner Falcon males are called lannerets and is sometimes used as a 'first falcon' by falconers starting out. Displaying a good nature sometimes lacking in more highly powered birds, what Lanners lack in hunting prowess they more than make up for in personality. Outstandingly manoeuvrable, they use their large tails and relatively low wing loading to perform exceptionally to the lure and can take a range of small birds as prey.
Lanner falcons are similar in size to the Peregrine Falcon, (36 – 48cm length with a wingspan of 95 – 105cm males weighing around 490g and females 690g) but are longer in the wing and tail and have a paler coloration. It also lacks the striking black-and-white face pattern of a Peregrine, since there is always lots of rufous brown in the crown and the malar stripes are much less prominent while the forehead is white. The eye ring varies from pale yellow to orange. Beak is greyish blue with dark tip. Back is uniformly slate grey, showing little contrast with their rather pale belly. The legs and feet are rich yellow.
Sexes are similar, although the females are slightly larger.
Juveniles are much slimmer, with brownish back and dark streaked chest and belly.
Distribution and habitat:
The Lanner Falcon is a relatively common native to all of Africa and the southern parts of Italy, Sicily, Greece and Asia Minor. It is essentially a bird of mountainous terrain except in Africa, where it is also found in savannahs, plains and deserts.
Lanner falcons live in pairs. When defending its nesting territory, it will often stoop with tremendous force at an animal it cannot hope to kill, which seems to be, nonetheless, an effective deterrent.
Lanner Falcons are fast and agile flyers. They often perch on posts and pylons.
Doves and pigeons make up as much as 50% of the Lanner’s diet but it is well capable of catching birds up to the size of a Guinea Fowl. It will also eat small mammals especially the larger fruit bats. When prey of this kind is scarce, ground living mammals and lizards are taken. It will also gorge on locusts and flying termites when they are swarming. Occasionally it will eat carrion.
The fast-flying Lanner Falcon likes open spaces where it has the possibility to track down and hunt by horizontal pursuit. Watering points where numerous birds congregate to drink is a favourite hunting spot. Lanner Falcons practice cooperative hunting. Female acts like a beater and hunts out victims while the male remains a bit behind, ready to swoop down on the prey. This technique is rather unusual amongst birds of prey. Much, but not all of the Lanner Falcon's prey is taken in the air. The falcon descends to its prey, sometimes head-on and binds to it with a smack which can be heard some way off.
Occasionally it will strike its prey in the air and allow it to drop to the ground, collecting it there, but this is less frequent behaviour. Some of the prey birds are attacked in their nests. In such cases the Lanner Falcon will often eat the eggs of its victim.
Breeding and nesting:
The Lanner Falcon breeds with one partner for life. Normally, Lanner Falcons don't build their own nests. They will use a simple scrape or reuse other species’ old nests found on a sheltered ledge or in a tree. In southern Africa the female lays one to five buff coloured eggs with dark speckles between mid-May to early September. Both parents sit on alternatively for about 30-35 days. Young fledge at about 40 days after hatching.