Falcons (Family Falconidae) lack a clutching foot mechanism to catch and kill prey, which characterises eagles, kites and relatives in the Family Accipitridae. Instead, they have powerful hooked bills with specialised 'teeth' and matching notches which can sever neck bones with one bite.
Brown Falcons are small to medium-sized raptors (birds of prey). The female is larger than the male. The Brown Falcon has a range of plumage colours, from very dark brown to light brown above and off-white below. 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. Younger birds resemble dark adults, but have less obvious barring on the tail, and a buff-yellow colour on the face, throat and nape of the neck.
The Brown Falcon 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 structures 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. Paler birds are usually associated with inland areas, but all the colour varieties are fairly scattered throughout the range.
The Brown Falcon ranges throughout Australia, and north to New Guinea.
Feeding and diet
Brown Falcons are usually seen alone, searching for food from an exposed perch. When prey is sighted, the bird swoops down and grasps it in its claws (talons), killing the prey with a bite to the spine. The powerful bill has specialised 'tomial' teeth and matching notches for this purpose. 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.
Normally silent at rest, but gives some cackling and screeching notes when in flight.
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 eggs, and both care for the young, although the female performs the bulk of these duties, while the male supplies most of the food.
- Breeding season: June to November in the south; November to April in the north.
- Clutch size: 2 to 6 (usually 3)
- Incubation: 30 days
- Time in nest: 45 days
- Olsen, P., Crome, F. and Olsen, J. 1993. The Birds of Prey and Ground Birds of Australia. Angus and Robertson, and the National Photographic Index of Australian Wildlife, Sydney.
- Pizzey, G. and Knight, F. 1997. Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. Angus and Robertson, Sydney.
- Schodde, R. and Tideman, S.C. (eds) 1990. Reader's Digest Complete Book of Australian Birds (2nd Edition). Reader's Digest (Australia) Pty Ltd, Sydney.