(Falco biarmicus)

FUN FACT

Lanner Falcons are one of the few raptor species to engage in cooperative hunting. Mated pairs hunt together, with the male generally flushing prey for the female to capture, or both birds trading off in pursuit of prey on the wing. In lean winter months, small groups of Lanner Falcons will even band together and hunt in a pack.

Lanner Falcons are strong, stocky birds with long wings and a relatively short tail, very similar to the North American Peregrine Falcon.  Like the Peregrine, Lanners a dark grey to bluish on the back, with a lighter underside generaly streaked with brown.  Lanner Falcons are often more reddish about the head, however, and tend to lack the dark "hood" characteristic of the Peregrine.  Instead, the Lanner Falcon sports a dashing mustache in the form of dark streaks down both cheeks.  Like most raptors, males and females look the same, with females tending to be about a third larger.

One of the oldest species of heirofalcons, Lanners have been used in falconry for more than a thousand years.  They are especially prized for their ability to capture other birds, such as pigeons or grouse.  Lanners are fast, agile flyers, and not afraid to follow prey into underbrush.  Unlike Peregrines, who are famed for the 200 mph dives (called "stoops" in falconry), Lanners use a horizontal hunting style, coming at their prey low, flat, and fast.  Generating speeds of up to 90 mph using wingbeats alone, Lanners will strike a bird in flight to stun it, then follow it to the ground to finish the kill.

Lanners are strongly territorial.  Juveniles will wander about until they are able to find a mate and establish a territory of their own.  Once they've done so, however, they don't migrate.  Although widespread and common in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, the wild Lanner population in Europe is small and declining.  Illegal shooting, stealing of young birds for falconry, and disturbing during the breeding season by rock climbers are among the Lanner Falcon's greatest challenges.  Destruction of important habitat -- such as by road construction that destabilizes cliff faces where they nest, and open-pit mining that chases prey away from hunting grounds -- also take their toll.

Distribution

Africa, southeast Europe and just into Asia.

Habitat

Open and arid terrain, especially near rocky cliffs.

Diet

Primarily other birds, taken while in flight; occasionally small mammals and large insects. Pigeons are a favorite!

Breeding

Like all falcons, Lanner Falcons don't build their own nests. A mated pair will either take over an abandoned nest (usually one built by ravens or vultures), or simply lay eggs on a ledge or crevice with no nesting material at all. They like to nest well off the ground; nests are generally 30-35 meters high, and well-situated to take advantage of multiple potential hunting grounds. The female lays 3-4 eggs in early March, and both parents share incubation duties. Once chicks hatch, the female is primarily responsible for their care and feeding. Juvenile Lanner Falcons fledge near the end of May, but remain dependent on their parents for another 4-6 weeks.

Status

Not Under Threat (Least Concern)

At the Aviary

See the Lanner Falcons during SkyDeck!