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Falconidae – Falcons and Caracaras

Amur Falcon in India: Photo by Shekar Vishvanath

Falconidae, known commonly as falcons and caracaras, comprise a diverse family of birds of prey found worldwide except in Antarctica. These raptors are characterized by their strong, hooked bills, sharp talons, and exceptional aerial agility. From the swift and streamlined falcons to the scavenging caracaras, Falconidae exhibit a wide range of hunting behaviors and ecological niches.

Overview of Falconidae

From the swift and streamlined falcons to the more robust caracaras, this family presents a diverse array of raptors. Despite their varied appearances and hunting behaviors, they share anatomical features and genetic ties that distinguish them from other diurnal birds of prey. Falcons exhibit a wide dietary spectrum, preying on everything from insects to small birds, while caracaras display versatility, from scavenging to specialized hunting for wasp nests. A distinctive trait among many falcons is the tomial “tooth,” a notch on the upper bill’s cutting edge, while bare facial skin is common among forest falcons and nearly all caracaras.