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Superregnum: Eukaryota
Cladus: Unikonta
Cladus: Opisthokonta
Cladus: Holozoa
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Superphylum: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Megaclassis: Osteichthyes
Cladus: Sarcopterygii
Cladus: Rhipidistia
Cladus: Tetrapodomorpha
Cladus: Eotetrapodiformes
Cladus: Elpistostegalia
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Cladus: Reptiliomorpha
Cladus: Amniota
Classis: Reptilia
Cladus: Eureptilia
Cladus: Romeriida
Subclassis: Diapsida
Cladus: Sauria
Infraclassis: Archosauromorpha
Cladus: Crurotarsi
Divisio: Archosauria
Cladus: Avemetatarsalia
Cladus: Ornithodira
Subtaxon: Dinosauromorpha
Cladus: Dinosauriformes
Cladus: Dracohors
Cladus: Dinosauria
Ordo: Saurischia
Cladus: Eusaurischia
Subordo: Theropoda
Cladus: Neotheropoda
Cladus: Averostra
Cladus: Tetanurae
Cladus: Avetheropoda
Cladus: Coelurosauria
Cladus: Tyrannoraptora
Cladus: Maniraptoromorpha
Cladus: Maniraptoriformes
Cladus: Maniraptora
Cladus: Pennaraptora
Cladus: Paraves
Cladus: Eumaniraptora
Cladus: Avialae
Infraclassis: Aves
Cladus: Euavialae
Cladus: Avebrevicauda
Cladus: Pygostylia
Cladus: Ornithothoraces
Cladus: Ornithuromorpha
Cladus: Carinatae
Parvclassis: Neornithes
Cohors: Neognathae
Cladus: Neoaves
Cladus: Telluraves
Cladus: Australaves
Ordo: Falconiformes

Familia: Falconidae
Subfamiliae: Caracarinae - Herpetotherinae - Falconinae


Falconidae Leach, 1820
Primary references

Leach, W.E. 1820. Synopsis of the Contents of the British Museum: Eleventh Room. British Museum. London. 17th edition: 65–70. (Although the name of the author is not specified in the document, Leach was the Keeper of Zoology at the time). BHL DOI: 10.5962/bhl.title.144385 Reference page. First citation p.65 BHL


Griffiths, C. S. (1999). Phylogeny of the Falconidae inferred from molecular and morphological data. The Auk 116 (1): 116–130.[1] [2]
Soto-Seravia, R., Ruiz, V.H., Vega-Roman, E., Marchant, M. & Benítez-Mora, A. 2017. A reassessment on the state of knowledge of Chilean Falconidae in the last hundred years. ZooKeys 642: 131-148. DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.642.9877. Reference page.

Vernacular names
беларуская: Сакаліныя
Deutsch: Falkenartige
English: Falcons and Caracaras
Nordfriisk: Falken
hrvatski: Sokolovi
հայերեն: Բազեներ, Ճուռակներ
日本語: ハヤブサ科
한국어: 매과
македонски: Соколи
Nederlands: Valkachtigen
polski: Sokołowate
русский: Соколиные
ไทย: เหยี่ยวปีกแหลม
Türkçe: Doğangiller
українська: Соколині

The falcons and caracaras are around 60 species of diurnal birds of prey that make up the family Falconidae (representing all extant species in the order Falconiformes). The family is divided into three subfamilies, Herpetotherinae, which includes the laughing falcon and forest falcons, Polyborinae, which includes the caracaras, Spiziapteryx and Falconinae, the falcons and kestrels (Falco) and falconets (Microhierax).


Falcons and caracaras are small to medium-sized birds of prey, ranging in size from the black-thighed falconet, which can weigh as little as 35 grams (1.2 oz), to the gyrfalcon, which can weigh as much as 1,735 grams (61.2 oz). They have strongly hooked bills, sharply curved talons and excellent eyesight. The plumage is usually composed of browns, whites, chestnut, black and grey, often with barring of patterning. There is little difference in the plumage of males and females, although a few species have some sexual dimorphism in boldness of plumage.
Distribution and habitat

The family has a cosmopolitan distribution across the world, absent only from the densest forest of central Africa, some remote oceanic islands, the high Arctic and Antarctica. Some species have exceptionally wide ranges, particularly the cosmopolitan peregrine falcon, which ranges from Greenland to Fiji and has the widest natural breeding distribution of any bird. Other species have more restricted distributions, particularly island endemics like the Mauritius kestrel. Most habitat types are occupied, from tundra to rainforest and deserts, although they are generally more birds of open country and even forest species tend to prefer broken forest and forest edges. Some species, mostly in the genus Falco, are fully migratory, with some species summering in Eurasia and wintering entirely in Africa, other species may be partly migratory. The Amur falcon has one of the longest migrations, moving from East Asia to southern Africa.[1]
Diet and feeding
The laughing falcon is a snake-eating specialist

Falcons and caracaras are carnivores, feeding on birds, small mammals including bats,[2] reptiles, insects and carrion. In popular imagination the falconids are fast flying predators, and while this is true of the genus Falco and some falconets, other species, particularly the caracaras, are more sedentary in their feeding. The forest falcons of the Neotropics are generalist forest hunters. Several species, particularly the true falcons, will stash food supplies in caches.[3] They are solitary hunters and pairs guard territories, although they may form large flocks during migration. Some species are specialists, such as the laughing falcon, which specialises in snakes; others are more generalist in their diet.
The red-footed falcon is unusual in being a colonial breeding falcon

The falcons and caracaras are generally solitary breeders, although around 10% of species are colonial, for example the red-footed falcon.[4] They are monogamous, although some caracaras may also employ alloparenting strategies, where younger birds help adults (usually their parents) in raising the next brood of chicks. Nests are generally not built (except by the caracaras), but are co opted from other birds, for example pygmy falcons nest in the nests of weavers, or on the ledges on cliffs. Around 2–4 eggs are laid, and mostly incubated by the female. Incubation times vary from species to species and are correlated with body size, lasting 28 days in smaller species and up to 35 days in larger species. Chicks fledge after 28–49 days, again varying with size.
Relations with humans

Falcons and caracaras have a complicated relationship with humans. In ancient Egypt they were deified in the form of Horus, the sky and sun god who was the ancestor of the pharaohs. Caracaras also formed part of the legends of the Aztecs. Falcons were important in the (formerly often royal) sport of falconry. They have also been persecuted for their predation on game and farm animals, and that persecution has led to the extinction of at least one species, the Guadalupe caracara. Several insular species have declined dramatically, none more so than the Mauritius kestrel, which at one time numbered no more than four birds. Around five species of falcon are considered vulnerable to extinction by the IUCN, including the saker falcon.
Taxonomy and systematics
See also: List of Falconidae

The family Falconidae was introduced by the English zoologist William Elford Leach in a guide to the contents of the British Museum published in 1820.[5][6] The family is composed of three main branches: the falconets and true falcons, the caracaras, and the forest falcons. Differences exist between authorities in how these are grouped into subfamilies. Also, the placement of the laughing falcon (Herpetotheres) and the spot-winged falconet (Spiziapteryx) varies. One common approach uses two subfamilies Polyborinae and Falconinae. The first contains the caracaras, forest falcons, and laughing falcon. All species in this group are native to the Americas.[7]

The composition of Falconidae is disputed, and Polyborninae is not featured in the American Ornithologists' Union checklists for North and South American birds that are produced by its Classification Committees (NACC and SACC). The Check-list of North American Birds considers the laughing falcon a true falcon (Falconinae) and replaces Polyborinae with Caracarinae and Micrasturinae.[8] On the other hand, the Check-list of South American Birds classifies all caracaras as true falcons and puts the laughing falcon and forest falcons into the subfamily Herpetotherinae.[9]

Based on genetic research from the late 1990s to 2015, Boyd[10] uses three subfamilies. He places the laughing falcon (Herpetotheres) with the forest falcons (Micrastur) into Herpetotherinae (similar to SACC). Caracarinae is separate (similar to NACC), but also contains the spot-winged falconet (Spiziapteryx). The other falcons are placed in Falconinae.

Falconinae, in its traditional classification, contains the falcons, falconets, and pygmy falcons.[11] Depending on the authority, Falconinae may also include the caracaras and/or the laughing falcon.[9][12] Boyd further divides the Falconinae into two tribes: Polyhieracini containing the Microhierax falconets, plus Falconini containing the Falco falcons. The pygmy falcon and the white-rumped (pygmy) falcon are split into separate genera (Polyhierax and Neohierax), with the former placed into Polyhieracini and the latter into Falconini.[10]













Cladogram based on Griffiths, C.S. et al. (2004).[13]
Genera in taxonomic order

Below is a taxonomic sequence of the subfamilies and genera of falconiforms after Fuchs & Johnson (2015),[14] Wink (2018),[15] and Mindell et al. (2018).[16]

Family: Falconidae

Subfamily Image Genus Species
Herpetotherinae Micrastur mintoni - Cryptic Forest Falcon; Parauapebas, Pará, Brazil.jpg Micrastur G.R. Gray, 1841 – forest falcons
  • Barred forest falcon, Micrastur ruficollis
  • Plumbeous forest falcon, Micrastur plumbeus
  • Lined forest falcon, Micrastur gilvicollis
  • Cryptic forest falcon, Micrastur mintoni
  • Slaty-backed forest falcon, Micrastur mirandollei
  • Collared forest falcon, Micrastur semitorquatus
  • Buckley's forest falcon, Micrastur buckleyi
Lachfalke.jpg Herpetotheres Vieillot, 1817 – laughing falcon
  • laughing falcon, Herpetotheres cachinnans
Polyborinae Spiziapteryx Kaup, 1852
  • Spot-winged falconet, Spiziapteryx circumcincta
Ave Carcará.jpg Caracara Merrem, 1826 – crested caracara
  • Crested caracara, Caracara plancus
Red-throated Caracara.jpg Ibycter Vieillot, 1816
  • Red-throated caracara, Ibycter americanus
Gelbkopfkarakara Milvago chimachima.jpg Milvago Spix, 1824 – brown caracaras
  • Yellow-headed caracara, Milvago chimachima
  • Chimango caracara, Milvago chimango
Black Caracara - Chupacacao Negro (Daptrius ater) (14909975447) (cropped).jpg Daptrius Vieillot, 1816
  • Black caracara, Daptrius ater
Mountain Caracara RWD.jpg Phalcoboenus d'Orbigny, 1834
  • Carunculated caracara, Phalcoboenus carunculatus
  • Mountain caracara, Phalcoboenus megalopterus
  • White-throated caracara, Phalcoboenus albogularis
  • Striated caracara, Phalcoboenus australis
Falconinae Philippine Falconet - Microhierax erythrogenys.jpg Microhierax Sharpe, 1874 – typical falconets
  • Collared falconet, Microhierax caerulescens
  • Black-thighed falconet, Microhierax fringillarius
  • White-fronted falconet, Microhierax latifrons
  • Philippine falconet, Microhierax erythrogenys
  • Pied falconet, Microhierax melanoleucus
African Pygmy Falcon 002.jpg Polihierax' Kaup, 1847 – pygmy falcons
  • Pygmy falcon, Polihierax semitorquatus
  • White-rumped falcon or White-rumped pygmy-falcon, Polihierax insignis
Common kestrel falco tinnunculus.jpg Falco Linnaeus, 1758 – true falcons, hobbies and kestrels
  • Malagasy kestrel, Falco newtoni
  • Seychelles kestrel, Falco araeus
  • Mauritius kestrel, Falco punctatus
  • Spotted kestrel, Falco moluccensis
  • Nankeen kestrel or Australian kestrel, Falco cenchroides
  • Common kestrel, Falco tinnunculus
  • Rock kestrel, Falco rupicolus
  • Greater kestrel, Falco rupicoloides
  • Fox kestrel, Falco alopex
  • Lesser kestrel, Falco naumanni
  • Grey kestrel, Falco ardosiaceus
  • Dickinson's kestrel, Falco dickinsoni
  • Banded kestrel, Falco zoniventris
  • Red-necked falcon, Falco chicquera
  • Red-footed falcon, Falco vespertinus
  • Amur falcon, Falco amurensis
  • Eleonora's falcon, Falco eleonorae
  • Sooty falcon, Falco concolor
  • American kestrel or "sparrow hawk", Falco sparverius
  • Aplomado falcon, Falco femoralis
  • Merlin or "pigeon hawk", Falco columbarius
  • Bat falcon, Falco rufigularis
  • Orange-breasted falcon, Falco deiroleucus
  • Eurasian hobby, Falco subbuteo
  • African hobby, Falco cuvierii
  • Oriental hobby, Falco severus
  • Australian hobby or little falcon, Falco longipennis
  • New Zealand falcon or Ngarangi or kārearea, Falco novaeseelandiae
  • Brown falcon, Falco berigora
  • Grey falcon, Falco hypoleucos
  • Black falcon, Falco subniger
  • Lanner falcon, Falco biarmicus
  • Laggar falcon, Falco jugger
  • Saker falcon, Falco cherrug
  • Gyrfalcon, Falco rusticolus
  • Prairie falcon, Falco mexicanus
  • Peregrine falcon, Falco peregrinus
  • Taita falcon, Falco fasciinucha

Fossil genera

Badiostes (Santa Cruz Early Miocene of Patagonia, Argentina)
Falconidae gen. et sp. indet. (Early Miocene of Chubut, Argentina)
Falconidae gen. et sp. indet. (Pinturas Early/Middle Miocene of Argentina)
Pediohierax (Middle Miocene of Nebraska, US) – formerly Falco ramenta
Falconidae gen. et sp. indet. (Cerro Bandera Late Miocene of Neuquén, Argentina)[17]
"Sushkinia" pliocaena (Early Pliocene of Pavlodar, Kazakhstan) – belongs in Falco?
Thegornis (Miocene of South America)


Tordoff, Andrew (2002). "Raptor migration at Hoang Lien Nature Reserve, northern Vietnam" (PDF). Forktail. 18: 45–48. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-06-10.
Mikula, P., Morelli, F., Lučan, R. K., Jones, D. N., & Tryjanowski, P. (2016). Bats as prey of diurnal birds: a global perspective. Mammal Review.
Collopy, M.W. (1977). "Food Caching by Female American Kestrels in Winter". Condor. 79 (1): 63–68. doi:10.2307/1367531. JSTOR 1367531.
Ille, R.; Hoi, H.; Grinschgl, F.; Zink, F. (2002). "Paternity assurance in two species of colonially breeding falcon: the kestrel Falco tinnunculus and the red-footed falcon Falco vespertinus". Etologica. 10: 11–15.
Leach, William Elford (1820). "Eleventh Room". Synopsis of the Contents of the British Museum. Vol. 17 (17th ed.). London: British Museum. p. 65. Although the name of the author is not specified in the document, Leach was the Keeper of Zoology at the time.
Bock, Walter J. (1994). History and Nomenclature of Avian Family-Group Names. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History. Vol. Number 222. New York: American Museum of Natural History. p. 133. hdl:2246/830.
Myers, P. R.; C. S. Parr; T. Jones; G. S. Hammond; T. A. Dewey. "Subfamily Polyborinae (caracaras and forest falcons)". Animal Diversity Web. University of Michigan. Retrieved 2009-08-15.
"Check-list of North American Birds". North American Classification Committee. American Ornithologists' Union. Archived from the original on 2011-06-06. Retrieved 2009-08-15.
"A classification of the bird species of South America". South American Classification Committee. American Ornithologists' Union. Archived from the original on August 1, 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-15.
Boyd, John H. "Falconiformes". Taxonomy in Flux Checklist. Retrieved 11 March 2016.
Myers, P. R.; C. S. Parr; T. Jones; G. S. Hammond; T. A. Dewey. "Subfamily Falconinae (falcons)". Animal Diversity Web. University of Michigan. Retrieved 2009-08-17.
"Check-list of North American Birds". North American Classification Committee. American Ornithologists' Union. Archived from the original on 2011-06-06. Retrieved 2009-08-17.
Griffiths, C.S. et al. (2004) Phylogeny of the Falconidae (Aves): a comparison of the efficacy of morphological, mitochondrial, and nuclear data. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 32(1):101-109.
Fuchs, J.; Johnson, J. A.; Mindell, D. P. (2015). "Rapid diversification of falcons (Aves: Falconidae) due to expansion of open habitats in the Late Miocene". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 82: 166–182. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2014.08.010. PMID 25256056.
Wink, M. (2018). "Phylogeny of Falconidae and phylogeography of Peregrine Falcons". Ornis Hungarica. 26 (2): 27–37. doi:10.1515/orhu-2018-0013. S2CID 91204703.
Mindell, M. D.; Fuchs, J.; Johnson, J. A. (2018). "Phylogeny, Taxonomy, and Geographic Diversity of Diurnal Raptors: Falconiformes, Accipitriformes, and Cathartiformes". In Sarasola, J.; Grande, J.; Negro, J. (eds.). Birds of Prey: Biology and conservation in the XXI century. Springer, Chame. pp. 3–32. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-73745-4_1. ISBN 978-3-319-73745-4.

PVPH 465: a phalanx 1 of the middle toe. A caracara? Possibly belongs in extant genus (Kramarz et al. 2005).


Kramarz, Alejandro: Garrido, Alberto; Forasiepi, Analía; Bond, Mariano & Tambussi, Claudia (2005): Estratigrafía y vertebrados (Aves y Mammalia) de la Formación Cerro Bandera, Mioceno Temprano de la Provincia del Neuquén, Argentina. Revista geológica de Chile 32(2): 273–291. HTML fulltext

Further reading

Fuchs, J.; Johnson, J.A.; Mindell, D.P. (2015). "Rapid diversification of falcons (Aves: Falconidae) due to expansion of open habitats in the Late Miocene". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 82: 166–182. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2014.08.010. PMID 25256056.

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