Thursday, January 13, 2011

Amur Falcons

A female Amur falcon poses for me

At this time of the year until March/April we have flocks of falcons and kestrels swooping our skies. Last week while visiting in the Drakensberg, as we drove through Champagne Valley road, I spotted numerous falcons sitting on the powerlines. At one point Grant stopped and I was able to get several photos of a bird sitting motionless above the vehicle. When we downloaded the photos at home, Grant took our Roberts Bird Guide,(a comprehensive field guide to over 950 birds in Southern Africa) written by Hugh Chittenden and quickly identified it as an female Amur Falcon. The male is solid grey with a rufus/chestbnut lower belly and also has white underwing coverts very conspicious in flight. These little raptors are non-breeding Palearctic* migrants travelling huge distances from East Asia, where it breeds, to South Africa.

While having tea with Amanda and Angus on Saturday (which I have posted about on Friday!), I looked up and saw a huge flock of birds quite high in the clear blue sky. Angus focussed his binoculars on them and said he thought they were falcons or kestrels. Grant took the binos and stated that they were none other than our delightful visitors, the Amur falcons. They'd caught a thermal and within about eight minutes they were soaring so high, we couldn't make them out (with or without the field glasses). The Amur falcon eats insects and termites and occassionally small birds.
Falcons, kestrels and all other raptors are extremely important part of the environment, especially the food chain. In recent years finches and pigeons have become a pest to grain farmers and house-owners alike. The finches leave the roosting place in the morning, swoop down in their thousands, on grainlands and can wreak havoc on crops in a matter of days. Doves and pigeons roosts on house roofs and on churches and other buildings making a huge noise with their feet and of course, messing on the roof. Peregrine and lanner falcons are the only birds which are fast enough to catch these "pests" and keep their numbers down, but the extensive use of poisons and pesticides as well as decreased habitat have caused the falcons to be classified as "near threatened" in South Africa. You can read a post I did on finches here.

*Palearctic means the zoographical region that includes Europe, North Africa and north-eastern Asia, east to Siberia


  1. Hi Jo, I am definitely praying for the people in Queensland. I have some blog friends in Brisbane and so far, they are safe. The flooding is horrible there.

    Love the picture of the falcon... What a gorgeous bird... You captured a marvelous picture.


  2. She's a pretty thing, Jo, and has me maybe-perhaps rethinking my position on birds of prey.
    A few years ago, we had a pair of Merlin falcons move into our neighbourhood. One morning I opened the door to find our deck covered in heads and wings and feet of song birds. The Merlins and their youngster were using our big poplar trees for their dining room. I don't remember if I screamed, but I did cry.
    We've had very few songbirds in our yard since then, and I'm afraid to put out feeders for fear the Merlins will think it's a smorgasbord for them.
    But your little Amur is very cute. I like her matching beak and feet.
    Luv, K

  3. She's a beauty. I like the mottled chevrons on her breast. Hopefully their numbers will increase.

  4. What a magnificent bird - thank you for a most informative post.

  5. She is such a little beauty!

    Sorry I have been off line for a while, The floods in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria have taken up our consciousness.

  6. I love to see animals in the wild and am always honored when they make their appearances for us. I also believe that all species have their unique purpose and even though raptors feed on other animals, they make sure that the bioddiversity stays balanced. Your hawk lady is beautiful Jo and the capture is awesome! Thanks for sharing! If I ever see them here in West Africa, I'll let you know but so far, I haven't...

    (PS: do you know there's a bird meme on Wednesday? I saw it on Arija's blog, though I would pick it up one of these days... maybe you would like too!)

  7. Thanks for the interesting bird. Is saw a small (noisy!) falcon in our garden a few days ago but was unable to identify it before it flew off.


Thank you for visiting my blog and taking the time to leave a comment. I appreciate your feedback. Jo