When discussing falcon facts, let us acknowledge several noteworthy attributes of these majestic birds in the genus Falco. One of the most remarkable facts about falcons, notably the Peregrine falcon, is their exceptional speed.
For instance, these falcons are the world's fastest birds, swooping down on prey at over 240 miles per hour. Another notable falcon fact is their widespread distribution across all continents except Antarctica. Moreover, falcons eat other birds, insects, bats, and rodents.
10 Falcon Facts
1. Falcons live around the world.
The falcon family, or Falconidae, comprises over 40 species of falcons inhabiting every continent except Antarctica. For example, the Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) can live in warm coastal areas to freezing mountain tops2.
Around the onset of winter, peregrine falcons migrate from colder regions, such as the tundra in Alaska and Canada, traveling distances up to 15,500 miles to warmer lands in South America. This remarkable shift showcases the adaptability of where peregrine falcons live and their incredible endurance as they navigate through varied terrains and weather patterns.
Further, the Gyrfalcon is the largest falcon, with icy plumage, living exclusively in the Arctic region. The Gyrfalcon consumes a varied diet of birds and mammals.
Meanwhile, common kestrels are smaller than the Gyrfalcon and are Europe's most widespread raptor. The kestrel can hover in the wind and follows a distinct hunting style, making it easily identifiable in Europe.
However, the smallest falcon species is the pygmy falcon, measuring only 20 cm wide.
2. The Peregrine falcon is the world’s fastest animal.
The Peregrine Falcon holds the record for the fastest animal in the world1, reaching an incredible speed of 240 miles per hour, even faster than the fastest land animal, the cheetah. It results from a natural design.
Its streamlined and pointed wings and powerful chest muscles allow rapid wingbeats, while its beak reduces wind resistance. The falcon's eyes also have a third eyelid, the nictitating membrane, which clears debris during high-speed dives.
3. Falcons can see eight times better than humans.
One fascinating falcon fact you might now know is that a falcon's vision is nearly eight times better than a human's, meaning they can spot a flea on a soccer ball from a distance across the field, a helpful ability for diurnal birds.
Falcons have two foveae in their eyes, allowing for two focal points, unlike humans, with only one. When flying at high altitudes, these birds can perceive colors in finer detail, detecting simple movements or differentiating between a rabbit and a rock.
Additionally, falcons' eyes cover almost 50% of their head, giving them a significantly wider field of vision. This feature is comparable to having built-in binoculars and allows falcons to sight a mouse from distances exceeding 1.5 miles.
Falcons also have a nictitating membrane, a third eyelid that cleans and shields their eyes from debris while permitting an unobstructed view. This attribute is particularly advantageous when diving for prey up to 240 miles per hour.
Despite their astonishing speed, a falcon's gaze remains fixed on its prey thanks to the abundance of sensory cells in their eyes, almost twice as many as humans.
4. Falcons have a tooth in their beaks.
Unlike other birds, these solitary hunters have a 'tomial tooth' in their beak, a sharp protrusion designed to interlock with a groove in the lower beak. This tooth amplifies the falcon's bite, turning its beak into a lethal weapon. The tomial tooth severs the spinal cord of its prey; falcons kill their prey quickly and without struggle.
Interestingly, the tomial tooth is made of keratin, the same material as human hair and nails. Therefore, a falcon's beak and talons can experience wear and tear but can grow back to its pristine condition.
5. Female falcons are bigger than males.
Sexual dimorphism is common among these birds of prey; female birds are larger than their male counterparts. The female falcon has a larger build and more muscle power, giving her an advantage in hunting larger prey species. Her greater endurance allows for a broader range of prey, resulting in a more dependable food supply for their offspring.
In contrast, the male falcon is smaller but more agile, enabling him to dart with remarkable speed and accuracy and corner quick-footed prey that might evade the larger female.
By dividing up the hunting grounds based on their physical abilities, the falcons can exploit diverse food sources, contributing to their survival and reproductive success.
6. Falcons dance in the sky to attract mates.
Next on our falcon facts list: During the mating season, the male executes perfectly calculated moves while carrying small items or food in his talons. The highlight of the performance is the male falcon's ability to drop and catch these objects while still in flight, demonstrating his hunting prowess.
This aerial ballet also helps falcons bond, setting the foundation for their shared future. During this performance, falcons fly thousands of feet in the air, where precision and finesse take center stage.
7. Falcons mate for life.
Falcons' loyalty to their partners is comparable to human monogamy. Once they pair up, it becomes a lifelong commitment rather than a temporary alliance. They care for their young in nesting sites mainly located around remote cliffs.
The commitment of falcon parents plays a crucial role in the survival and continuation of the falcon lineage. Both parents raise their young, cooperating in managing their responsibilities.
During nesting season, the male falcon, or 'tiercel,' hunts and provides food, while the female, or 'falcon,' incubates the eggs and cares for the hatchlings. This joint effort is essential for their offspring's survival and strengthens their bond till they become adult birds.
8. Humans have trained falcons for centuries.
Falconry dates back to 2000 BC and was a popular activity for the Mesopotamian and Mongolian cultures. The people of that era recognized falcons' sharp intellect and adept hunting skills, particularly their sharp talons and rapid dives.
The ancient Egyptians also worshipped the god Horus, often portrayed with the head of a falcon, indicating their great significance in ancient Egyptian culture.
In medieval Europe, falconry reflected one's social status, specifically for those of noble birth. Only kings and nobles could own and train falcons. It was impressive to see a falcon in action, with its wings spread wide, as it pursued a small game.
Moreover, falconry had political implications. The upper classes often gifted each other well-trained falcons, symbolizing alliances and strategic moves in the realm of power.
Despite the passing of time, falconry remains a significant tradition that has endured. The cultural significance falcons play is particularly evident in the Middle East, where it is part of its heritage.
9. Falcons have inspired aerospace research.
The diving speed of Peregrine falcons has inspired innovations in aerospace engineering. For example, the falcon's streamlined body and tapered wings have influenced high-speed aircraft design, making flight more efficient and agile.
Designers of jet engines have also looked at the falcon's nostril cone, which disrupts airflow and prevents lung damage during high-speed dives, to design new engines. The falcon's exceptional vision has also spurred ideas for surveillance and reconnaissance technologies.
Finally, this majestic bird has a feather structure that reduces drag and noise, inspiring scientists to explore their potential for reducing noise pollution from aircraft.
Related read: more biomimicry examples.
10. Many falcons are endangered.
However, falcons face survival issues due to human influence on their natural habitats. The expansion of urban areas and deforestation are taking away their homes and hunting territories, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Climate change also affects the falcons' migratory routes and reduces prey availability.
Moreover, pesticides consumed by their prey build up within the birds and can lead to breeding problems and death. Illegal hunting and trapping for falconry, particularly with the Saker Falcon species, also presents a significant threat.
In conclusion, falcons are seriously threatened, and we must cooperate on conservation efforts to protect them. For more, help celebrate and raise awareness for these amazing birds by sharing some of our falcon quotes.
Tucker, V. A. (1998). Gliding flight: speed and acceleration of ideal falcons during diving and pulling out. Journal of Experimental Biology, 201(4), 403-414.
White, C. M., Clum, N. J., Cade, T. J., & Hunt, W. G. (2002). Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole & F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.