Polihierax semitorquatus (Pygmy falcon) 

Dwergvalk [Afrikaans]; Afrikaanse dwergvalk, Halsbandvalk [Dutch]; Fauconnet d'Afrique [French]; Zwergfalke [German]; Falc„o-pigmeu [Portuguese]

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Polihierax semitorquatus (Pygmy falcon)  Polihierax semitorquatus (Pygmy falcon)

Pygmy falcon, Kgalagadi National Park, South Africa. [photo Callie de Wet ©]

Pygmy falcon. [photo Johann du Preez ©]

Distribution and habitat

It has two separate populations in sub-Saharan Africa, one extending from Somalia through Ethiopia and Kenya to southern Sudan and Tanzania and the other in Angola and southern Africa in Namibia, south-western Botswana and the Northern Cape. Here it's distribution is strongly linked to that of the Sociable weaver, as it is uses their communal nests for roosting and nesting (the northerly population has a similar relationship with buffalo-weavers). It generally favours open, arid habitats such as desert, dry savanna and open grassland with scattered Camel thorns (Acacia erioloba).

Distribution of Pygmy 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.  

Movements and migrations

Largely sedentary, although it may make local movements in Winter.


It mainly eats reptiles, insects and occasionally rodents, doing most of it's hunting from a high perch, gliding down to the ground and pouncing on its prey. It also hawks small birds aerially and raids the Sociable weaver colonies it nests in, taking both adults and chicks. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • Usually monogamous and territorial, although multiple breeding pairs may occupy a single colony of weavers.
  • It usually uses a chamber of a large social weaver communal structure as a nest, either the Sociable weaver or the Red-billed bufallo-weaver. About a quarter of all Sociable weaver nests have about 3-4 chambers which are allocated to the falcons for roosting and nesting. It may also use a stand-alone nest of non-communal bird, such as a White-browed sparrow-weaver, Cape glossy or Wattled starling.
  • Egg-laying season is from August-March, peaking from October-November.
  • It lays 1-4 eggs, which are mainly incubated by the female for about 27-31 days, while the male provides her with food.
  • The chicks are mainly fed by the female, although after fledging both parents provision them food. The young return to the nest regularly after fledging, making the nestling period difficult to determine; it is though to be about 27-40 days.


Not threatened, although the destruction of weaver nests might have decreased its numbers in the North-West Province and Free State, however the spread of utility structures has allowed both it and the Sociable weaver to head into otherwise treeless areas, thus counteracting this.


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



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