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Orange-breasted Falcon
Falco deiroleucus

Status: Near Threatened

Population Trend: Unknown.

Other Names: Falco aurantius, Temminck's Falcon.

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Falco deiroleucus
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Distribution: Neotropical.  Two disjunct populations, one occurring from southern MEXICO (Veracruz), BELIZE, GUATEMALA (El Petén) and formerly along the Caribbean slope of HONDURAS, NICARAGUA, and COSTA RICA to western PANAMA; another presumably disjunct population occurs from eastern PANAMA to COLOMBIA, VENEZUELA, and the GUIANAS locally on the eastern side of the Andes south to PERU, BOLIVIA, PARAGUAY, URUGUAY, and northern ARGENTINA; possibly TRINIDAD. more....

Subspecies: Monotypic.

Taxonomy: Probably most closely related to F. rufigularis and the various species of hobbies (Cade 1982, Amadon and Bull 1988, Thiollay 1994), but some authorities (Stresemann 1924, Kleinschmidt 1933, Hellmayr and Conover 1949, Wetmore 1965, Stresemann and Amadon 1979, Sibley and Monroe 1990) have suggested a relationship to the peregrine group. Wink and Sauer-Gürth (2004) found that it is part of the hobby assemblage, based on nucleotide sequences of the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene.

Movements: Irruptive or local migrant (Bildstein 2006).

Habitat and Habits: Found in mature forests and forest edge in lowlands and foothills, even into lower cloud forest. It may prefer edges ("ecotones") and openings in heavily forested areas with prominent cliffs or rivers in the northern portion of its range (Slud 1964, Alvarez del Toro 1980, Boyce 1980), but all of the nest sites monitored by Baker et al. (2000) were in areas of mature forest (n = 11) or habitat mosaics dominated by mature forests (n = 7). Its requirements are evidently similar in the South American portion of its range (Tostain et al. 1982), but more open habitats may also be used there, especially in Argentina, where Olrog (1985) characterized the preferred habitat as savanna woodlands. Although it is probably not closely related to F. peregrinus, this species replaces it ecologically in certain areas of the Neotropics. These falcons are partially crepuscular, enabling them to take bats, a favorite food. more....

Food and Feeding Behavior: Relative to its overall body size, this species probably has the largest feet of any falcon and also a particularly large beak, adaptations for capturing its prey, medium-sized to large birds (particularly doves, parakeets, and swifts), bats, and large insects, in flight. In the well-studied nesting population in Guatemala and Belize, birds comprised 85.7% and bats 14.3% of the 105 observed prey items, and nearly half of the avian prey weighed between 25-75 g (Baker et al. 1998). For unknown reasons, the observed hunting success (only 4% for 208 attempts) is among the lowest documented for any raptor (Baker et al. op cit.). These falcons generally perch on high, exposed snags, sallying forth to pursue aerial prey in direct Merlin-like pursuit over the canopy, either in steep climbs terminating in a short stoop or in a very fast tail-chase; they may scan the sky for swifts and other high-flying birds and go up to meet them in the air (Jenny and Cade 1986). Jenny saw birds stooping in peregrine fashion on two occasions, and Haverschmidt (1968) also described the method of hunting, stooping on birds in flight, as like that of the peregrine. Baker et al. (1998) observed three instances of cooperative hunting by pairs. more....

Breeding: In Central America, it nests on cliffs, on Mayan temples (Tikal National Park) and there is a single instance of a nest in a palm tree in Guatemala (Baker et al. 1992, 1998). In South America, nests have been found under large clumps of ephiphytes in the crotches of large emergent trees (Jenny and Cade 1986) and probably in natural cavities of large trees, at the base of fronds of palm trees, and on cliffs (P. Jenny pers. comm., Tostain 1992, Segrist 2006). Clutch size is 2-4 (usually 3) eggs with a white ground color, suffused almost completely with reddish-brown pigment (Kiff 1988). With rare exceptions, the female does all of the incubation and brooding; the male provisions her and the chicks with food and feeds the young directly only after fledging (Jenny and Cade 1986, Baker et al. 1998). The incubation period at nests observed in Guatemala and Ecuador was about 30 days, and the nestling period was about 40 days at eight nests (Jenny and Cade op cit.). more....

Conservation: Friedmann (1950) summarized the known history of the Orange-breasted Falcon with the terse comment, "Apparently nowhere numerous," and it remains poorly known and scarce to the present time. Cade (1982) regarded it as probably the most sparsely distributed falcon in the world, and he suspected that the total population might be no more than a few thousand individuals. The reasons for its scarcity are not apparent, as noted by Collar (1986). It is clearly Endangered in the northern Mesoamerican portion of its range and very rare or extinct in Central America south of Belize and El Petén, Guatemala (Thorstrom et al. 2002). There is little evidence to suggest that it was ever more than rare or uncommon there within historical times. It is probably more common, but still poorly known and locally distributed, in the humid lowlands and foothills of South America east of the Andes. There appears to be no reason to suspect a population decline at this time, other than locally due to habitat loss, but the low population size in northern Central America (the only area where it has been relatively well studied) and its absence from other apparently suitable areas are causes for vigilance. It is ominous that Peter Jenny visited many of the known specimen localities for this species in the early 1980s, but found suitable forest habitat remaining at only one of them (Cade 1982). Collar et al. (1994) considered this to be a globally Near Threatened species, but it iwas still categorized as a species of "Least Concern" by BirdLife International. In 2012, however, BirdLife changed its status to Near Threatened. more....

Important References: 
Baker, A.J., D.F. Whitacre, and O. Agruirre. 2012. Orange-breasted Falcon.
  Pp. 296-312 in D.F. Whitacre (ed.), Neotropical birds of prey: biology and
  ecology of a forest raptor community. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY.
Berry, R.B., C.W. Benkman, A. Muela, Y. Seminario, and M. Curti. 2010.
  Isolation and decline of a population of the Orange-breasted Falcon. Condor
Baker, A.J. 1998. Status and breeding biology, ecology, and behavior of
  the Orange-breasted Falcon (Falco deiroleucus) in Guatemala and Belize.
  M.Sc. thesis, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT.
Baker, A.J., D.F. Whitacre, O. Aguirre-Barrera, and C. White. 2000. The
  Orange-breasted Falcon Falco deiroleucus in Mesoamerica: a
  vulnerable, disjunct population? Bird Conservation International 10:29-40.
Bierregaard, R.O. 1994. Orange-breasted Falcon. P. 268 in del Hoyo, J., A.
  Elliott, and J. Sargatal (eds). Handbook of birds of the world. Vol. 2. New
  World vultures to guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Boyce,Jr., D.A. 1980. Hunting and pre-nesting behavior of the
  Orange-breasted Falcon. Raptor Research 14:35-39.
Brown, L., and D. Amadon. 1968. Eagles, hawks and falcons of the world.
  Vol. 2. McGraw-Hill, New York.
Cade, T.J. 1982. Falcons of the world. Cornell University Press, Ithaca,
Ferguson-Lees, J., and D.A. Christie. 2001. Raptors of the world. Houghton
  Mifflin, Boston, MA.
Haverschmidt, F. 1963. Falco deiroleucus Temminck in Surinam. Journal für
  Ornithologie 104:443-445.
Howell, S.N.G., and A. Whittaker. 1995. Field identification of
  Orange-breasted and Bat Falcons. Cotinga 4:36-43.
Jenny, J.P. 1989. Observations of the Orange-breasted Falcon (Falco
in the northern Petén from 1979 through 1989. Pp. 93-98 in
  W.A. Burnham, J.P. Jenny, and C.W. Turley (eds.), Progress report II, 1989:
  Maya Project. The Peregrine Fund, Boise, ID.
Jenny, J.P., and T.J. Cade. 1986. Observations on the biology of the
  Orange-breasted Falcon Falco deiroleucus Birds of Prey Bulletin

Sites of Interest:
The Peregrine Fund
Captive breeding/reintroduction project and field studies.
Orange-breasted Falcon Falco deiroleucus
Contains extensive information on the biology and status of this species.
Orange-breasted Falcon photos.
Aves de Rapina do Brasil
Species account wirh emphasis on Brazil.

Albuquerque, Jorge
Aldana, Fernando
Balza, Ulises
Beingolea, Oscar
Berry, Robert
Carvalho Filho, Eduardo Pio Mendes
Curti, Marta
de Marcken de Merken, Juan
Dibos, Jose Luis
Eisermann, Knut
Gallardo Del Angel, Julio Cesar
Gómez, César
Jenny, Peter
Lima, Fernando
Lisboa, Jorge
Muela, Angel
Ospina, Alex
Piana, Renzo
Quirós Bazán, Norman
Seminario, Yeray
Shrum, Peggy
Szabo, John
Villamil Tamayo, Marcel
Whittaker, Andrew
Zorzin, Giancarlo
Zuluaga Castañeda, Santiago

Last modified: 8/20/2012

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2017. Species account: Orange-breasted Falcon Falco deiroleucus. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 28 Feb. 2017

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