Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: falcon from Philip's Encyclopedia

Widely distributed, hawk-like bird of prey, sometimes trained by man to hunt game. Falcons have keen eyesight, short hooked bills, long pointed wings, streamlined bodies, strong legs with hooked claws, and grey or brownish plumage with lighter markings. The females are much larger than the males. Falcons feed on insects, smaller birds, and small ground animals. They can kill on the wing, using their talons. They lay two to five brown-spotted white eggs, often in abandoned nests. Length: 15-64cm (6-25in). Family Falconidae.

Summary Article: falcon
From The Columbia Encyclopedia

common name for members of the Falconidae, a heterogeneous family of long-winged birds of prey similar to the hawks but genetically more closely related to the parrots and other birds. True falcons and their close relatives (genus Falco) range in size from the 6 1/2-in. (16.5-cm) falconet to the 24-in. (60-cm) gyrfalcon, and in habits from the swift merlin to the sluggish caracara. True falcons, distinguished by their notched beaks, are widely distributed. In flight their wingbeats are rapid and powerful, and they swoop hundreds of feet at speeds of up to 200 mph (320 kph) to capture their prey—chiefly birds and small mammals. They kill cleanly, usually breaking the back of their victim. Some members of the falcon family eat insects; the long-legged caracaras (found in South America, with one species, the northern, or crested, caracara ranging to the extreme S United States) feed also on carrion and sometimes rob other birds of their prey. The cosmopolitan peregrine falcon and the gyrfalcon of the arctic tundra have been much used in falconry. The commonest and smallest American falcon is the American kestrel, or sparrow hawk, F. sparverius (related to the European kestrel). Others are the merlin, or pigeon hawk (related to the European merlin), and the prairie falcon. Falcons build no nests but lay their eggs on the ground, on cliff ledges, or in the abandoned nests of hawks and crows. Falcons are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Falconiformes.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2018

Related Articles

Full text Article falcon
Britannica Concise Encyclopedia

Any of nearly 60 species of diurnal birds of prey in the family Falconidae, characterized by long, pointed wings and swift, powerful flight. The na

Full text Article falcon
The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Any bird of prey of the genus Falco, family Falconidae, order Falconiformes. Falcons are the smallest of the hawks (15–60 cm/6–24 in). They have shor

Full text Article falcon
The Macmillan Encyclopedia

A ground-nesting bird of prey belonging to a widely distributed family ( Falconidae ; 58 species). 15-60 cm long, falcons are characterized by...

See more from Credo