Saturday, July 26, 2008

Falcon

Falcon are any of about 60 species of birds of prey that constitute the family Falconidae in the order Falconiformes, which also include eagles, hawks, and vultures. The true falcons are typified by a bulled-shaped body, long and pointed wings, a medium to long tail, long toes with sharply hooked claws, a short neck, and a short, hooked, and usually notched bill. Coloration may vary widely, but the sexes of any one species are usually similar in appearance, except that the females are larger. Certain species of falcons are also known as caracaras, falconets, gyfalcons, hobbies, kestrels, and peregrines; somewhat confusingly, a number of falcons are also called hawks. Falcons are strong, fast fillers with great aerial agility.

They seldom soar in the manner of hawks. The peregrine has been clocked at 290 km/h (180 mph) in a dive. This speed and agility make falcons successful hunter of birds, reptiles, and small mammals. Some species, however, are insectivorous or eater pf carrion.

Although falcons strike or grasp their prey with their claws, they generally kill the captured prey with their beaks, whereas hawks kill with their claws.
Falcons are usually solitary or live in pairs. They nest in trees or on cliffs and often occupy the nests of other species of birds. Females generally lay two to six eggs, and both the male and female incubate the eggs and care for the young. Falcons seldom live more than 20 years. The falcons' only serious enemy is humankind.

For many years falcons were considered vermin because they were thought to exact a heavy toll on chickens and other livestock. In recent times pesticides have been responsible for decimating and endangering several species.
Organochlorine pesticides (DDT, dieldrin) reduce the ability of certain birds to produce sufficient calcium for their eggs; consequently, the eggs are thin shelled and susceptible to breakage. The earliest fossil record of the falcon family is from the Miocene Epoch of Argentina, about 15 million ago.

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