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A photo of a Bat Falcon (Falco rufigularis)
Bat Falcon

Bat Falcon

Falco rufigularis

The bat falcon, Falco rufigularis, is a striking bird of prey belonging to the family Falconidae. This raptor is relatively small, with a length ranging from 23 to 30 cm (9.1 to 12 in). Males are lighter, weighing between 108 to 150 g (3.8 to 5.3 oz) with a wingspan of 51 to 58 cm (20 to 23 in), while females are heavier at 177 to 242 g (6.2 to 8.5 oz) and boast a wingspan of 65 to 67 cm (26 to 26 in). Both sexes exhibit similar plumage, characterized by a blue-black head and upperparts, a white to buff throat, and a chestnut-rufous belly.

Identification Tips

Adult bat falcons have long wings and a somewhat elongated tail with a square tip. Their upper back to uppertail coverts are grayish-edged, and their black breast is finely barred with white. The tail is blackish with thin white or grayish bars and a white or buff tip. The underside of their wings is black with fine white bars. Their cere and the bare skin around the eye are bright yellow, their iris is black-brown, and their legs and feet are orange-yellow. Juveniles are duller with a buffier throat and tawny breast barring.

Habitat

The bat falcon is a denizen of tropical forests, favoring mature, unbroken canopies but also found at forest edges, in gallery forests, on wooded savannas, and even in suburban areas. It typically resides from sea level up to about 1,700 m (5,600 ft), with occasional sightings at higher elevations.

Distribution

This species is widespread, found from Mexico and Central America, across Trinidad, and throughout every mainland South American country except Chile and Uruguay. It is mostly sedentary, though some individuals exhibit wandering behavior.

Behaviour

The bat falcon is a conspicuous percher, often seen on high, open snags from which it launches to catch its prey. It hunts primarily around dawn and dusk, targeting a variety of animals including bats, birds, small rodents, reptiles, amphibians, and large insects.

Song & Calls

The bat falcon is particularly vocal during the breeding season, when near the nest, or when interacting with other raptors. Its primary call is a rapid, shrill scream, with males emitting a higher pitch than females. Other vocalizations include a high, thin "tsee-tsee-tsee," a low-intensity "chit," and a whining or high-pitched wailing call from the female.

Breeding

Breeding seasons vary geographically, with nesting occurring at different times of the year depending on the region. The bat falcon typically nests in tree cavities, with clutch sizes ranging from two to four eggs. Both sexes share incubation duties, though the female contributes the majority of the effort.

Similar Species

The bat falcon shares plumage and vocal characteristics with the orange-breasted falcon (F. deiroleucus), and they may be sister species. They are also closely related to the aplomado falcon (F. femoralis).

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the bat falcon is eclectic, consisting of bats, birds, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and various insects. While vertebrates contribute most to the biomass consumed, invertebrates dominate numerically.

Conservation status

The IUCN has classified the bat falcon as Least Concern due to its extremely large range and estimated population of at least half a million mature individuals. Although the population is believed to be decreasing, there are no immediate threats identified. However, habitat transformation to agriculture and the impact of pesticides have affected its breeding success in some regions.

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