Fine Art

Polihierax semitorquatus

Polihierax semitorquatus, Photo: Michael Lahanas

Cladus: Eukaryota
Supergroup: Opisthokonta
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Cladus: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Classis: Aves
Subclassis: Carinatae
Infraclassis: Neornithes
Parvclassis: Neognathae
Ordo: Falconiformes
Familia: Falconidae
Subfamilia: Falconinae
Tribus: Falconini
Genus: Polihierax
Species: Polihierax semitorquatus
Subspecies: P. s. castanotus - P. s. semitorquatus


Polihierax semitorquatus (A. Smith, 1836)


Report of the expedition for exploring central Africa p.44

Česky: Sokolík malý
Dansk: Pygmæfalk
English: African Pygmy-falcon

The African Pygmy-falcon (Polihierax semitorquatus) is a falcon that lives in eastern and southern Africa, the smallest raptor of the continent. As a small falcon, only 19 to 20 cm long, it preys on insects, small reptiles and even small mammals.


Adult African Pygmy-falcons are white below and on the face, grey above, the female having a chestnut back. There are white "eye spots" on the nape. Juveniles have a brown back, duller than adult females, and a rufous wash on the breast. The flight feathers of the wings are spotted black and white (more black above, more white below); the tail is barred black and white.[1][2]

The flight is low and undulating. In size, pattern, and the habit of perching upright on an exposed branch or treetop, this species resembles some shrikes.[1][2]

The call is "a high-pitched kikiKIK, repeated" (Kenya)[1] or "a 'chip-chip' and a 'kik-kik-kik-kik'" (southern Africa).[2]

Range, habitat, and population

The African Pygmy-falcon inhabits dry bush. The subspecies P. s. castanonotus occurs from Sudan to Somalia and south to Uganda and Tanzania; P. s. semitorquatus occurs from Angola to northern South Africa.[2][3] This range is estimated to have an area of 2.7 million km2, and the total population is estimated to be between 100,000 and 1 million birds.[3]

A pair at Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. Male on right and female (brown back) on the right.

In Kenya, African Pygmy-falcon nest in White-headed Buffalo-weaver nests, and the ranges of the two birds coincide.[1] In southern Africa, they are found around Red-billed Buffalo-weaver nests but predominantly nest in the vacant rooms of Sociable Weaver nests,[2] which are large and multichambered—even if the Sociable Weavers still have an active colony in the nest. Despite being bird-eaters and bigger than Sociable Weavers, the Pygmy-falcons largely leave the latter alone, though they do occasionally catch and eat nestlings and even adults.[4]


African Pygmy-falcons occasionally engage in polyandrous relationships, where there are more than two adults living together and tending nestlings. There are four potential reasons for this behavior: defense, co-operative polyandry, delayed dispersal of offspring, and thermoregulation (warmth). Corroboration for the last is that in winter African Pygmy-falcons nest further inside the nest of Sociable Weavers, where there is better insulation.[5]


1. ^ a b c d Zimmerman, Dale A.; Turner, Donald A.; and Pearson, David J. (1999). Birds of Kenya and Northern Tanzania. Princeton University Press. pp. 90–91, 110–111, 309. ISBN 0-691-01022-6. Retrieved 2007-07-26.
2. ^ a b c d e Sinclair, Ian; Hockey, Phil; and Tarboton, Warwick (2002). Birds of Southern Africa. Princeton University Press. pp. 116, 132. ISBN 0-691-09862-1. Retrieved 2007-07-26.
3. ^ a b BirdLife International (2004). Polihierax semitorquatus. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. Retrieved on 12 May 2006. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern.
4. ^ Covas, Rita; Huyser, Onno; and Doutrelant, Claire (2004). "Pygmy Falcon predation of nestlings of their obligate host, the Sociable Weaver". Ostrich 75 (4): 325–326. ISSN 0030–6525.
5. ^ Spottiswoode, Claire; Herrmann, Eric; Rasa, O. Anne E.; and Sapsford, Colin W. (2004). "Co-operative breeding in the Pygmy Falcon Polihierax semitorquatus". Ostrich 75 (4): 322–324. ISSN 0030-6525.

Birds, Fine Art Prints

Birds Images

Biology Encyclopedia

Retrieved from ""
All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

Home - Hellenica World