Brown Falcon

A Brown Falcon standing on pebble covered ground

Scientific Name: Falco berigora

Size: 41 to 50 cm

What does it look and sound like?

The Brown Falcon is a small to medium-sized raptor (bird of prey). Birds range in size, with the male smaller than the female. The Brown Falcon has a range of colour patterns (phases). Generally, the upperparts are dark brown and the underparts are pale buff or cream. The sides of the head are brown with a characteristic tear-stripe below the eye. Birds from the tropical north are very dark, with a paler face and undertail, while those from central Australia are paler all over. It is normally silent at rest, but gives some cackling and screeching notes when in flight.

Younger birds resemble the dark phase of the adult, but have less obvious barring on the tail, and a buff-yellow colour on the face, throat and hind-neck. Paler birds may often be confused with the Nankeen Kestrel, F. cenchroides, which is quite a bit smaller and has a more rufous crown. Dark Brown Falcons may be mistaken for slightly larger Black Falcon, F. subniger. The Black Falcon has longer legs and lacks barring on the tail. The Black Falcon also appears sleeker in design and movements.

Where is it found?

The Brown Falcon ranges throughout Australia, and north to New Guinea

What are its habitats & habits?

It is found in all but the densest forests and is locally common throughout its range. The preferred habitat is open grassland and agricultural areas, with scattered trees or man-made perches, such as telegraph poles, which it uses for perching. Around outback towns, the birds become quite tame and will allow quite close approach. Birds may stay within the same areas throughout the year or may move around locally in response to changes in conditions. The paler phase birds are normally associated with inland areas, but the colour phases are fairly scattered throughout the range.

Brown Falcons are most normally seen alone, searching for food from an exposed perch. When prey is sighted, the bird swoops down and grasps it in its claws (talons). Less often the species will hunt by hovering or gliding over the ground, often at great heights. Brown Falcons feed on small mammals, insects, reptiles and, less often, small birds.

Brown Falcons breed at most times of the year, but more commonly in June to November in the South and November to April in the north. The nest used by the Brown Falcon is normally an old nest from another hawk species, but the species may build its own stick nest in a tree. Occasionally birds nest in open tree hollows. Both sexes share the incubation of the 2 to 6 (normally 3), eggs, and both care for the young, although the female performs the bulk of these duties, while the male supplies most of the food. The eggs hatch after about 30 days, and the young birds leave the nest after another 40 to 45 days.

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Front cover of Australia's Birdwatching Megaspots book showing a picture of an Eastern Spinebill

This species features in my book Australia’s Birdwatching Megaspots

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