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A photo of a Red-footed Falcon (Falco vespertinus), male
Red-footed Falcon, Male

Red-footed Falcon

Falco vespertinus

The Red-footed Falcon, Falco vespertinus, is a medium-small raptor with long wings, known for its striking red undertail and legs in the adult male. The male's plumage is predominantly blue-grey, while the female boasts a grey back and wings, complemented by an orange head and underparts, and a white face with a distinctive black eye stripe and moustaches. Juveniles resemble the female but are brown above and buff below with dark streaks. These falcons measure 28–34 cm in length, with a wingspan of 65–75 cm, and an average mass of 155 g.

Identification Tips

When identifying the Red-footed Falcon, look for the adult male's uniform grey underwings and red undertail, which contrast with the female's orange and grey coloration. The juveniles can be recognized by their brown and buff streaked plumage and the facial pattern similar to that of the female.

Habitat

This diurnal bird favors open country with some trees, often near water. Typical steppe habitats ranging from Eastern Europe to Lake Baikal in Central Asia are preferred, with a tendency to migrate far south to Africa for the winter.

Distribution

The Red-footed Falcon breeds across southern Russia and Ukraine, with significant numbers in Hungary, Romania, and Serbia. Smaller populations are found in Italy, Bulgaria, Moldova, Austria, Slovakia, and Belarus, with irregular breeding in the Czech Republic and the Baltic States. In Asia, its breeding range extends eastwards to the upper Lena, touching the range of its sister species, Falco amurensis. It winters in southern and eastern Africa and is a regular wanderer to western Europe.

Behaviour

This species is a colonial breeder, often reusing old nests of corvids such as rooks. It exhibits strong territorial behavior, with frequent copulations and the female spending extended periods in the nest, suggesting incubation. The Red-footed Falcon is known to defend its nest vigorously against intruders and predators.

Breeding

The Red-footed Falcon lays two to four eggs and has been observed to show a preference for old magpie nests. The species does not build its own nests but relies on those constructed by other birds. Breeding success is higher in colonies than in solitary pairs.

Similar Species

The Red-footed Falcon may be confused with other falcons, such as kestrels and hobbies, but can be distinguished by its unique coloration and behavior.

Diet and Feeding

The diet consists of insects, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds. The falcon employs a distinctive hunting method, hovering before making a steep dive towards prey. The youngest nestlings are fed more frequently with larger prey, while older nestlings receive food less often and with less variety.

Conservation Status

The Red-footed Falcon is currently listed as Vulnerable, with an estimated global population of 300,000-800,000 individuals. The species has experienced a drastic decline in breeding populations due to habitat loss, hunting, and other threats. Conservation efforts include creating artificial nest box colonies and managing threats such as electrocution and persecution of rooks, which provide natural nest sites.

Red-footed Falcon Sounds



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