Falco biarmicus (Lanner falcon) 

Edelvalk [Afrikaans]; Ukhetshe (also applied to Peregrine falcon) [Xhosa]; uHeshe (also applied to Perigrine falcon) [Zulu]; Kakodi (generic term for sparrowhawks, goshawks, kestrels and falcons) [Kwangali]; Phakoe (also applied to Eurasian hobby) [South Sotho]; Pekwa [North Sotho]; Rukodzi (generic name for a small raptor such as falcon or sparrowhawk) [Shona]; Rikhozi (generic term for some raptors) [Tsonga]; Phakwę (generic term for some of the smaller raptors) [Tswana]; Lannervalk [Dutch]; Faucon lanier [French]; Lannerfalke [German]; Falcăo-alfaneque [Portuguese]

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Falco biarmicus (Lanner falcon) 
Lanner falcon. [photo Johann Grobbelaar ©]
Falco biarmicus (Lanner falcon)  Falco biarmicus (Lanner falcon) 

Lanner falcon. [photo Johann Grobbelaar ©]

Lanner falcon juvenile. [photo Johann du Preez ©]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs in southern and south-eastern Europe, the Middle East, south-western Asia and much of sub-Saharan Africa, excluding the lowland forests of the DRC and West Africa. In southern Africa it is fairly common across the region, largely excluding Mozambique. It generally favours open grassland, cleared or open woodland and agricultural land. While breeding it is most common around cliffs used as nesting and roost sites, although it may also use buildings, electricity pylons and trees.

Distribution of Lanner falcon in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Predators and parasites

It has been recorded as prey of Bubo capensis (Cape eagle-owl).

Movements and migrations

Partial migrant in southern Africa, as many juveniles depart from their breeding grounds around December-January in the eastern grasslands of South Africa, heading west and south-west to the Kalahari, Karoo and the Western Cape.

Food 

It eats mainly birds, especially doves, pigeons and chickens, hunting using extreme speed to surprise its prey. It often hunts from a high perch or while soaring high up in the air, making a steep and rapid dive to intercept a bird either aerially or on the ground. It often hunts in pairs (see photo below), enabling them to catch large or highly illusive prey. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

Falco biarmicus (Lanner falcon) 

Lanner falcon male (left) and the larger female (right) feeding on a Burchell's sandgrouse. [photo Johann Grobbelaar ©]

Breeding

  • Monogamous territorial solitary nester, probably with a long pair bond, although a nest was once recorded to have two males and one female attending it, suggesting polyandry.
  • The nest is typically a simple scrape in sand or soil on a cliff ledge or is placed in another structure such as a building or nest box. It may also use the stick nest of another bird such as a White-necked raven, Verreaux's eagle or Bateleur, sometimes displacing them while they are breeding and possibly killing their chicks in the process. As these stick nests are often on utility pylons and poles, Lanner falcons have been able to colonise treeless areas where they have not previously occurred.
  • Egg-laying season is from late May to early September.
  • It lays 1-5 eggs, which are incubated mainly by the female for about 32 days, starting with the egg laid last or second last.
  • The chicks are brooded constantly by the female for the first few days of their lives, after which they are brooded intermittently for about 1-2 weeks. Even then the female still remains close to the nest, relying on the male to do most of the hunting. The young eventually leave the nest at 42-45 days old, becoming fully independent about 1-3 months later.

Threats

Not threatened globally but Near-threatened in South Africa, due to local extinctions possibly caused by a vulnerability to agrochemicals. It has however benefited from the clearing of savanna and the increasing availability of free-range poultry.

References

  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - irBds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 

 
 

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