The red-footed falcon is the smallest bird in the falcon family. For this reason, Falcons are often confused with Falcons, but if you see these birds together, it will immediately become clear how much smaller Falcons are. This bird is very unusual. In addition to its miniature size, it also has an unusual diet. Suffice it to say that 80% of the diet of red-footed falcons are large insects. This material is dedicated to the kobchik. The article will talk in detail about the types of red-footed falcons, their habitat, reproduction and bird population.
Origin of the species and description
As a class, Falcons formed several tens of thousands of years ago. The most ancient remnants of the representative of the falcons were found in Romania during archaeological excavations and they date back to the third millennium BC. Falcons were mentioned in the scientific literature by Carl Linnaeus in 1766. After that, the description of the appearance and habits of the bird changed several times, and the final description of the species was formed only by the beginning of the 20th century.
In terms of size, the tailbones are slightly smaller than the pigeon, but much more elegant in flight. The length of the bird from the tip of the tail to the beak is about 30 centimeters, the wingspan is up to 70 centimeters. Body weight does not exceed 200 grams. Despite the fact that the Falcon is a bird of prey, it has a weak and short beak, which is simply impossible to kill large game. Falcons have pronounced sexual dimorphism. Females are much larger than males and differ from each other in plumage color.
The male has a bluish (almost black) plumage with a red belly. The plumage of the female resembles a not bright ocher in color. In addition, there are gray stripes on the back of the female, and colorful feathers on the belly.
An interesting fact: “Red pants” in males do not appear immediately. After leaving the nest, the males have the same variegated plumage on their stomach and legs as the female. Feathers on the legs and belly turn red only after the bird reaches puberty.
Appearance and features
The falcon family is not so numerous. Currently, only 2 subspecies are known. The first type is classic with almost black plumage and red belly and legs. The second species, smaller in number, is found exclusively in the Far East and is called the Eastern Falcon.
It differs from the European Falcon in the color of plumage. This bird has light gray feathers, speckled belly feathers and bright white cheeks. Sexual dimorphism is manifested in the fact that the inner part of the wing of males is white, while that of females is gray. Young birds even have a white neck, which darkens with the onset of puberty.
On the territory of the Russian Federation, the Eastern Falcon lives in the Trans-Baikal Territory and the Amur Region. In addition, it breeds in Mongolia and the eastern regions of China and in North Korea. In size and behavior, the Eastern Falcon does not differ from its European counterpart.
The features of this bird include the fact that it tolerates life well in captivity and can be kept in a large aviary. Unlike many other winged predators, the Falcon breeds well in captivity and easily gets used to other foods. There are cases when the red falcon was taught to hunt sparrows and pigeons, and the bird did an excellent job with this activity.
Where does the red falcon live?
The habitat of red falcons is really huge. Birds feel great throughout the entire territory of the Eurasian continent, from Ukraine and Poland to the banks of the subpolar Lena River. The bird is well adapted to the temperate continental climate, but does not withstand even light frosts, preferring to spend the winter in warm countries.
A large number of these miniature predators are found in the Balkan countries, in Kazakhstan and even in the territories of the subpolar Urals. In addition, a separate species of bird, the Amur Falcon, lives in the Far East and feels great in the Daurian steppes. Birds choose open areas for their residence. Most of all, the red-footed falcons like to settle in the fields, in the forest-steppes, and also not far from vast agricultural lands. Also, birds can be seen near the swamps, where a huge number of various insects live.
The only place where the red falcon will never settle is large forests. This is due to the fact that the red-footed falcon does not maneuver well and is not adapted for flying between trees. In addition, in the open it is easier to catch insects that this bird feeds on. In the winter season, the red-footed falcons migrate to Africa or the southern Asian regions. But they do not make nests in warm countries, preferring to breed in Europe.
Now you know where the falcon is found. Let’s see what he eats.
What does the Falcon eat?
As mentioned above, the main diet of red-footed falcons is large insects.
The bird hunts with pleasure:
- large butterflies;
- bees and wasps
Falcons with equal success are able to hunt in the air, grabbing prey with their beak, and on the ground, picking up insects with strong paws. Miniature falcons feel great in the air, and are able to catch even the smallest prey. During the feeding of chicks or if there is a catastrophic lack of insects, the red-footed falcons begin to hunt small mammals or small birds. It is not uncommon for Falcons to catch sparrows, pigeons and wagtails, as well as to catch mice and lizards.
If the need arises, the red-footed falcons can eat carrion and even eat food from the human table, but such a change in diet has an extremely negative effect on the health of birds and their life expectancy. The fact is that the body of the falcon is designed in such a way that it constantly needs a large amount of protein, which is present in insects. And if the bird starts eating other food, then its body lacks protein, which leads to serious health problems.
The zoos are struggling with this problem, I add food to the falcons, like insects (in particular, large Madagascar cockroaches ), as well as special vitamin complexes with a high protein content.
Peculiarities of character and lifestyle
Despite its modest size, the Falcon is quite aggressive, and sometimes simply impudent bird. These winged predators are diurnal. Their activity begins with the first rays of the sun and ends with the advent of darkness.
Falcons are social birds. They do not have a specific territory, and they prefer to settle in small colonies of 10-20 individuals. In some cases, a colony of red-footed falcons can reach hundreds of birds. Unlike the classic falcon, the red falcons feel great in a team, and they do not have controversial issues related to the division of hunting zones.
The red-footed falcon is a migratory bird. They return to their nesting places by mid-April, and fly to hot countries in early October. Moreover, the backbone of the migratory flock is formed inside the colony, and often other birds join it. In addition, it must be said that the Falcons are very responsible parents. And the male will never leave the female sitting on the eggs or raising the chicks. He will catch as much prey as the family needs.
Interesting fact: Unlike other representatives of the falcon family, the falcons are not afraid of people. They are perfectly tamed at any age, and are able to recognize their owner even after several years.
The bird has an accommodating disposition, and is able to get along with other bird species. Particularly well, the red-footed falcons coexist with large herds of cattle. They follow the cows, catching horseflies and flies.
Social Structure and Reproduction
The mating season begins in the falcons begins in mid-May. The courtship process is very interesting. At this time, the male flies over the female, describing amusing somersaults in the air. In addition, the falcon makes clattering sounds and tries to dance. Falcons don’t make nests. Instead, they prefer to occupy other people’s nests, driving out the birds that built them. As a rule, winged predators occupy the nests of magpies, crows, rooks and even herons. Also, coccyx can nest in hollows in trees or in crevices in rocks.
Interesting fact: Such a late breeding season is associated with natural cycles. The fact is that large insects (such as dragonflies and locusts) appear only towards the end of spring, and without them the falcons will not feed their offspring.
In most cases, there are 4-6 eggs in the clutch of red-footed falcons, which the female and male incubate alternately. The process of incubation of eggs lasts at least 25 days. After the chicks have hatched, the female is always with them. The male, in turn, provides food for both the female and the chicks. I must say that the chicks are very voracious and the male has an extremely difficult time. For a whole month, he catches insects with small respite and takes them to the nest.
The chicks leave the nest a month after they are born. By the end of August (2 months from the moment of birth) they become completely independent and when the time of seasonal migration comes, young falcons fly on a par with adults. On average, the life expectancy of falcons is about 15 years. However, in captivity, with proper care and nutrition, red falcons can live up to 25 years.
Natural enemies of red falcons
Falcons have no sworn enemies in the wild. Naturally, four-legged predators such as foxes, badgers, wolves or raccoons will not refuse to eat eggs or eat young chicks, but this can be fraught with the predator itself.
The peculiarity lies in the fact that the red-footed falcons are birds with a highly developed social system that live in a group. And if the masonry or chicks are in danger, then all adult birds will protect their own.
Even a large predator will not resist the massive attack of miniature falcons. In the scientific literature (as well as in documentaries) there are enough examples of how a group of birds drove away such large predators as a wolf or a fox from their nest.
It is also not easy for such winged predators as eagles or hawks to catch the Falcons, demonstrating miracles of resourcefulness in the air. Humans pose the greatest threat to birds. Firstly, birds are often shot by beekeepers. The fact is that red-footed falcons can settle near large apiaries and consistently and daily destroy the population of bees. Secondly, modern pesticides and other poisonous substances that poison insects pose a great danger to birds. Birds often catch insects and eventually get sick or die themselves.
Population and species status
At this point in time, the population of red-footed falcons is under threat. We are not talking about the extinction of the species, but the birds are close to a vulnerable position. Moreover, it is connected not with the number of individuals, but with the rate at which the population itself is declining. Ornithologists say that at present there are about 50 thousand individuals in Eurasia. However, the number of birds is rapidly declining. A number of birds are ringed, and mortality among ringed birds is extremely high, indicating that the entire population is at risk.
The problem is that birds eat insects, which are actively poisoned with chemicals and pesticides. These harmful substances accumulate in the body of the falcons and after some time cause severe illness and death of birds. Significant measures are being taken to protect and conserve birds. In particular, special buffer zones are being created in a number of reserves in the Urals, where no harmful substances are used and birds can hunt absolutely safely.
In addition, work is underway to breed birds in captivity. Unlike many other species of birds of prey, Falcons are easily tamed and breed well in captivity. This gives hope that the species can be restored, albeit in large enclosures. The red-footed falcon is a very unusual bird of prey that preys on large insects. In some African countries, these miniature hawks are specially tamed so that they hunt locusts and thereby keep agricultural fields safe and sound. People should do everything possible to keep the bird population intact and try to restore their numbers.