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Bat Falcon
Falco rufigularis

Status: Lower risk

Population Trend: Declining.

Other Names:  Falco albigularis, White-throated Bat Falcon (rufigularis), White-throated Hawk.

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Falco rufigularis
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Distribution: Neotropical. Northern Mexico south in lowlands of Central and South America west of the Andes to western PERU and east of the Andes through Amazonia to northern ARGENTINA (Misiones) and southern BRAZIL. more....

Subspecies: 3 races. F. r. petoensis: Northern MEXICO (Sonora, Nuevo León, Tamaulipas) south along both slopes of Central America to COLOMBIA west of the Andes south to western ECUADOR and western PERU; F. r. rufigularis : Base of the Andes in eastern COLOMBIA east to the GUIANAS and south to eastern ECUADOR, eastern PERU, northern BOLIVIA, southern BRAZIL and northern ARGENTINA; TRINIDAD; F. r. ophryophanes : Central BRAZIL and adjacent BOLIVIA, PARAGUAY, and northern ARGENTINA. more....

Taxonomy: Probably related to the hobby group, rather than to peregrine-type falcons. Thiollay (1994) suggested that the Bat Falcon and the Orange-breasted Falcon share a common ancestor, rather than being convergent, as some have claimed, and that they are probably sister species. Eisenmann (1966) gave the basis for using the name rufigularis instead of albigularis. 

Movements: Irruptive or local migrant, with juveniles dispersing from breeding areas (Bildstein 2006). Monroe (1968) and Brooks (in litt. 2002) suggested that there may be seasonal wandering by this species in Honduras and Peru, respectively.

Habitat and Habits: Occurs in lowlands and middle elevations, spending most of its time perched on high, exposed snags in tall trees at forest edges, or on dead or live trees in open habitats, palm savannas, agricultural fields, along rivers and streams, and sometimes on buildings in small villages. Although Bat Falcons could be found in agricultural and even urbanized habitats at Tikal National Park, Guatemala, they showed a clear preference for foraging over the forest (Parker 1997). Pairs are often seen together. Somewhat crepuscular, an obvious adaptation for capturing bats, a favorite prey, amd most active at dawn and dusk.more....

Food and Feeding Behavior: Feeds on bats, birds (including swifts, swallows, hummingbirds, parakeets, small waterbirds), insects (especially moths), snakes, lizards, frogs, and mice. Perches on high, exposed snags at the forest edge, in tall trees in the open, or beside rivers or lagoons to scan for prey, which it captures in the air after a dashing pursuit or swift, diagonal power dives from a great height, or by diving and striking at prey on the outside of vegetation, or on the surface of water (Stiles and Skutch). Parker (1991) saw Bat Falcons repeatedly crashing into canopy vegetation with feet extended, shaking the leaves, apparently to flush bumblebees roosting on the underside of the leaves during the heat of the day. Most aerial strikes on prey are executed at distances under 100 m from the perch (Cade 1982), but prey are sometimes captured several kilometers away and brought back to a favorite perch to be eaten (Chavez-Ramirez and Enkerlin 1991). Sometimes feeds on prey held in the talons during flight (Slud 1964). Garrigues (2003) reported an instance of this species feeding on fruit in Costa Rica. more....

Breeding: Nests in a natural tree cavity, woodpecker hole, cliff, or in a cavity in a building. Clutch size is 2-4 eggs with a white ground color heavily suffused with buffy and reddish-brown markings. The male hunts and brings food to the incubating and brooding female. Adults remain paired all year round (Cade 1982). The incubation period was about 30 days in Guyana and Venezuela (Beebe 1950, Kirven 1976), and the nestling period at one nest in Venezuela was 35 days (Kirven op cit.). Males participate in incubation only briefly and do the majority of the hunting during the incubation and early nestling periods (Parker 1997). The post-fledging period lasts for four to seven months (Kirven op cit.). more....

Conservation: Widespread and often fairly common, but may be declining in some areas, most likely as the result of the conversion of forest to agricultural uses. Cade (1982) pointed out that in the short-term, Bat Falcons may benefit from forest-cutting and burning, if the clearings, when not too extensive, produce optimum hunting areas, and the isolated giant trees left standing in fields seem to be preferred nesting places. However, isolated forest trees do not regenerate, and such areas become unsuitable for the falcons in the long term. Kiff et al. (1980) reported significant DDE-induced eggshell thinning in Bat Falcons in eastern Mexico during the 1960s. DDT was formerly widely used in Latin America, especially on cotton crops, so this factor could have affected populations negatively in other areas. Categorized as a species of "Least Concern" by BirdLife International. more....

Important References: 
Beebe, W. 1950. Home life of the Bat Falcon, Falco albigularis albigularis
  Daudin. Zoologica 35:69-86.
Bierregaard, R.O. 1994. Bat Falcon. Pp. 267-268 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.
Brown, L., and D. Amadon. 1968. Eagles, hawks, and falcons of the world.
  Vol. 2 Country Life Books, London.
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.
Howell, S.N.G., and A. Whittaker. 1995. Field identification of
  Orange-breasted and Bat Falcons. Cotinga 4:36-43.
Kirven, M. 1976. The ecology and behavior of the Bat Falcon, Falco
. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Colorado, Boulder.
Parker, M. 1997. Ecology of nesting Laughing Falcons and Bat Falcons at
  Tikal National Park, Guatemala: foraging and niche breadth. M.Sc. thesis,
  Boise State University, Boise, Idaho.
Parker, M.N., and D.F. Whitacre. 2012. Bat Falcon. Pp. 281-295 in D.F.
  Whitacre (ed.), Neotropical birds of prey: biology and ecology of a forest
  raptor community. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY.

Sites of Interest:
Bat Falcon photos.
Aves de Rapina do Brasil
Species account with emphasis on Brazil.

Fiuczynski, Klaus Dietrich
Iñigo-Elias, Eduardo
Lima, Fernando
Lisboa, Jorge
Martinez-Fernandez, Alberto
Ospina, Alex
Piana, Renzo
Quirós Bazán, Norman
Santos, Kassius Klay
Shrum, Peggy
Szabo, John
Villamil Tamayo, Marcel
Zorzin, Giancarlo
Zuluaga Castañeda, Santiago

Last modified: 7/27/2012

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2014. Species account: Bat Falcon Falco rufigularis. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 16 Apr. 2014

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