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Species Guide

Orange-breasted Falcon

Falco deiroleucus

The orange-breasted falcon, a bird of prey belonging to the Falconidae family, is a striking raptor with a robust build and notable sexual dimorphism in size. Males typically measure 35 to 36 cm in length and weigh between 325 to 425 grams, while females are larger at 38 to 40 cm and weigh 550 to 700 grams. This species exhibits one of the most pronounced size differences between sexes among falcons.

Identification Tips

Adults of this species can be identified by their black heads and bluish-black upperparts, with a paler blue-gray edge on the feathers. A distinctive feature is their buffy rufous orange upper breast, which extends to the sides of the neck, varying in the ratio of white to orange among individuals. The lower breast is black with coarse reddish-brown bars, and the belly, thighs, and undertail coverts match the buffy rufous orange of the upper breast. Their cere, the skin around the eye, and their legs and feet are typically bright yellow, though this can vary. The iris is dark brown. Immature birds are paler and less sharply marked than adults, with dull bluish-green bare parts that yellow with age.


The orange-breasted falcon is closely associated with tropical rainforests and semi-deciduous forests, often found near cliffs which are essential for nesting. It can also be found in landscapes where forest patches intermingle with more open areas.


Once ranging from southern Mexico to northern Argentina, the orange-breasted falcon's range has significantly contracted. Current records are mostly from Belize, Guatemala, and Panama, with its presence being rare or uncertain in other parts of Central and South America.


Territorial throughout the year, orange-breasted falcon pairs remain in their domain, while the dispersal patterns of the young are not well documented. The species is known for its agile hunting techniques, often capturing prey by diving from cliffs or stooping from great heights above the forest canopy.

Song & Calls

Highly vocal during the breeding season, both sexes emit a rapid "key-key-key-key" when threatened, and a "kyowh-kyowh-kyowh" call has also been noted. Courtship involves softer chirps and piping sounds.


Nesting typically occurs on cliff ledges or potholes, with occasional use of large trees or even man-made structures. Clutch sizes range from two to four eggs, with an incubation period of about 30 to 34 days and fledging occurring 40 to 45 days post-hatch. The female primarily incubates and provides for the nestlings.

Diet and Feeding

This raptor preys on a diverse array of birds and bats, employing various hunting strategies, including stealth tactics at dusk and dawn to capture migrating songbirds, shorebirds, and bats.

Conservation status

The IUCN has classified the orange-breasted falcon as Near Threatened due to its sparse distribution within a nominally large range and a population that is believed to be decreasing. Habitat loss and competition for nesting sites are significant threats. Conservation efforts include captive breeding and release programs to bolster wild populations.

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Orange-breasted Falcons on Birda

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Profile picture for Zac Peterson
Zac Peterson
31 Jul 2023 - 8:14am

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