Eleonora's Falcon

Eleonora's Falcon

Eleonora's Falcon
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Falconiformes
Family: Falconidae
Genus: Falco
Species: F. eleonorae
Binomial name
Falco eleonorae
Gene, 1839

The Eleonora's Falcon (Falco eleonorae) is a medium-sized falcon.

This species breeds on islands in the Mediterranean particularly off Greece (where two-thirds of the world's population breeds), but also in the Canary Islands, and off Spain, Italy, Croatia, Morocco and Algeria. It is a long-distance migrator, wintering in Madagascar. The migration route is thought to be coastal, with birds from the western end of the Mediterranean flying to Suez before flying south down the Red Sea, and across the Horn of Africa. Birds from the western end of the breeding range can cover 10,500 km during the trip. It is rare north of its range. It nests colonially on coastal cliffs, laying up to four eggs.

The Eleonora's Falcon is an elegant bird of prey, 36-42 cm long with a 87-104 cm wingspan. It is like a large Hobby or a small slender Peregrine Falcon, with its long pointed wings, long tail and slim body. There are two colour phases. The adult dark morph is all dark brown, with black underwing coverts. The light morph is more like a juvenile Hobby, but has buff underparts, and also shows the contrast between the black underwing coverts and paler base to the flight feathers.

Young birds are also like a large juvenile Hobby, but the pale underparts contrast with darker wingtips and wing coverts.

It will take large insects, such as dragonflies, which are transferred from talons to beak and eaten in flight. However, this species has a delayed breeding season, in late summer, because it is a specialist hunter of migrating birds which pass through the Mediterranean islands at this time of year. It captures small birds in flight, using its speed and aerobatic skills.

Birds spend much time cruising along coastal cliffs with steady wingbeats watching for tired incoming migrants.

The call is a typical falcon kek-kek-kek.

This bird is named after Eleonor of Arborea, national heroine of Sardinia.


  • Ferguson-Lees, J., & Christie, D.A., 2001, Raptors of the World, Houghton Mifflin Company:New York ISBN 0-618-12762-3

  • Walter, Hartmut, 1979 "Eleonora's Falcon : Adaptations to Prey and Habitat in a Social Raptor (Wildlife Behavior and Ecology series)". University Of Chicago Press:Chicago. ISBN 0-226-87229-7

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