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Eleonora's Falcon
Falco eleonorae

Status: Lower risk

Population Trend: Declining.

Other Names: 

Falco eleonorae
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Distribution: Afrotropical/Palearctic. Breeds from CANARY ISLANDS east through northwestern MOROCCO and Mediterranean islands, including CRETE and CYPRUS; winters mostly in MADAGASCAR, also in East Africa and the Mascarene Islands. more....

Subspecies: Monotypic.

Taxonomy: Based on an analysis of nucleotide sequences of the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene, Siebold et al. (1993) and Wink and Ristow (2000) found that this species forms a monophyletic clade with the Sooty Falcon (F. concolor) and Eurasian Hobby (F. subbuteo). These species and other "hobbies" belong to the subgenus Hypotriorchis and represent a clade that is paraphyletic to the peregrine complex (Seibold et al. 1993). The Australian Hobby (F. longipennis), African Hobby (F. cuvierii), and the Orange-breasted Falcon (F. deiroleucus) are also part of this assemblage and cluster at its base. These species have been separated as the subgenus Hypotriorchis and represent to a clade that is paraphyletic to the peregrine complex (Seibold et al. 1993). The Red-footed Falcon (F. vespertinus) and Amur Falcon (F. amurensis) form a sister group to the hobbies (Wink and Ristow 2000). This species and the Sooty Falcon share certain ecological and behavioral characters, e.g., preying on insects, wintering in Africa, and breeding colonially, which also implies that they are derived from a common ancestor (Wink and Seibold 1996). more....

Movements: Complete long distance, trans-equatorial migrant (Bildstein 2006). It has long been assumed that these falcons move from their breeding range in the Mediterranean Basin eastward along the Mediterranean and then fly south along the Red Sea before "shortcutting" inland across Somalia and then continuing south along the coast of East Africa (Bildstein and Zalles 2005). However, using satellite telemetry, Gschweng et al. (2008) showed that this species exhibits a highly individual migration pattern, and they tracked two juveniles which migrated via West Africa to Madagascar, and two juveniles that were tracked during spring migration to their summering areas in East and West Africa. An adult male and a juvenile male tracked from the Balearic Islands to Madagascar also migrated inland across the African continent, rather than across the Mediterranean Sea, as had previously been assumed (López-López et al. 2009). Most birds arrive on their wintering grounds in Madagascar in December and depart in March (Thorstrom and René de Roland 2000), arriving back on their breeding grounds in April and May. more....

Habitat and Habits: In the breeding season, it inhabits precipitous cliffs and the tops of rocky islets. In its winter quarters in Madagascar, this falcon occurs mainly in areas where water is present, including rice paddies, watercourses, and lakes. Also found in rainforest and sparsely wooded terrain. It sometimes associates with Sooty Falcons in its winter range (Langrand 1990). more....

Food and Feeding Behavior: Insects are the major food in winter, spring, and early summer, but a shift in the diet begins prior to egg laying, when the first migrants can be caught (Wink and Ristow 2000). Young are raised at a time (September-October) when migrant birds are most abundant (Walter 1979). Migrants usually reach the breeding areas in the early morning hours and are attracted to the islands, where the falcons surf the air and await them (Wink and Ristow 2000). When food is in abundance, it is cached for later use. In Madagascar, this falcon feeds most intensely at twilight and early at night around artificial light sources that attract insects (Langrand 1990). On its wintering grounds, pairs or groups of up to 25 birds can be seen feeding on large flying insects over the forest canopy (Thorstrom and Rene de Roland 2000), sometimes occurring with Sooty Falcons. more....

Breeding: Nests colonially on islands around the Mediterranean basin and off Morocco. Nests are placed in potholes or under boulders on cliff tops, but also in caves, on ledges, and in pigeonholes in weathered cliffs (Thévenot et al. 2003). Clutch size is from 1-4 eggs (Walter 1979), usually 2 or 3, with younger females laying fewer eggs. The incubation period is 28-30 days (Wink and Ristow 2000). The nestling period is about 35 days, with the fledging of young occurring in September and early October, thus coinciding with the height of autumn migration of passerines heading south from Europe (Walter op cit.). more....

Conservation: Although overall declines may have occurred in some areas in the breeding range (e.g., Ristow 2001) and the main wintering range in Madagascar (Thorstrom and René de Roland 2000), increases have occurred locally elsewhere, and the current overall population estimate is probably stable. Poaching and collecting chicks for food, although both declining, are still problems for this species in some areas, and human disturbance of nesting sites is increasing (Hellenic Ornithological Society 2000). Categorized globally as a species of "Least Concern" by BirdLife International. more....

Population Estimates: Walter (1979) estimated the total population at 6,000 breeding pairs, and by the early 1990s, Wink et al. (1994) put the global population at 3,800-4,500 pairs, with the majority (2,500-3,000 pairs) breeding on the Aegean Islands. The European population was estimated at 3,000 to 4,500 breeding pairs by BirdLife International/European Bird Census Council (2000), and this was later revised upward to 5,900 to 6,200 breeding pairs (BirdLife International 2004). more....

Important References: 
BirdLife International/European Bird Census Council. 2000. European bird
  populations: estimates and trends. BirdLife Conservation Series no. 10.
  BirdLife International,Cambridge, UK.
Cade, T.J. 1982. Falcons of the world. Cornell University Press, Ithaca,
Clark, A.L. 1981. Ecology of the Eleonora's Falcon in Morocco. Ph.D.
  dissertation, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.
Ferguson-Lees, J., and D.A. Christie. 2001. Raptors of the world. Houghton
  Mifflin, Boston, MA.
Orta, J. 1994. Eleonora's Falcon. P. 266 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.
Ristow, D. (compiler) 1999. International Species Action Plan: Eleonora's
  Falcon Falco eleonorae. BirdLife International,
Seibold, I., A.J. Helbig, and M. Wink. 1993. Molecular systematics of
  falcons (family Falconidae). Naturwissenschaften 80:87-90.
Walter, H. 1979. Eleonora's Falcon: adaptations to prey and habitat in a
  social raptor. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.
Wink, M., and D. Ristow. 2000. Biology and molecular genetics of
  Eleonora's Falcon Falco eleonorae, a colonial raptor of Mediterranean
  islands. Pp. 653-668 in R.D. Chancellor and B.-U. Meyburg (eds.), Raptors at
  risk. World Working Group on Birds of Prey, Berlin, and Hancock House,
  Blaine, WA.

Sites of Interest:
Species account, with an emphasis on European populations
Hellenic Ornithological Society
Details of a migration study of four birds fitted with satellite transmitters in Spring 2009

Caldarella, Matteo
Corso, Andrea
Walter, Hartmut
Wink, Michael

Last modified: 10/19/2010

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2021. Species account: Eleonora's Falcon Falco eleonorae. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 26 Oct. 2021

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