The lanner falcon (Falco biarmicus) is a medium-sized bird of prey that breeds in Africa, southeast Europe and just into Asia. It is mainly resident, but some birds disperse more widely after the breeding season.
It is a large falcon, at 43–50 cm length with a wingspan of 95–105 cm. European lanner falcons (Falco biarmicus feldeggi, also called Feldegg's falcon) have slate grey or brown-grey upperparts; most African subspecies are a paler blue grey above. The breast is streaked in northern birds, resembling greyish saker falcons, but the lanner has a reddish back to the head. Sexes are similar, but the browner young birds resemble saker falcons even more. However, sakers have a lighter top of the head and less clear head-side patterns. The lanner's call is a harsh "wray-e".
Taxonomy and systematics
The lanner falcon is a bird of open country and savanna. It usually hunts by horizontal pursuit, rather than the peregrine falcon's stoop from a height, and takes mainly bird prey in flight. It lays 3–4 eggs on a cliff ledge nest, or occasionally in an old stick nest in a tree.
This is presumably the oldest living hierofalcon species. Support for this assumption comes mainly from biogeography agreeing better with the confusing pattern of DNA sequence data in this case than in others. Nonetheless, there is rampant hybridization (see also perilanner) and incomplete lineage sorting which confounds the data to a massive extent; molecular studies with small sample sizes can simply not be expected to yield reliable conclusions in the entire hierofalcon group. In any case, the radiation of the entire living diversity of hierofalcons seems to have taken place in the Eemian interglacial at the start of the Late Pleistocene, a mere 130,000–115,000 years ago; the lanner falcons would thus represent the lineage that became isolated in sub-Saharan Africa at some time during the Riss glaciation (200,000 to 130,000 years ago) already.
They are bred in captivity for falconry; hybrids with the peregrine ("perilanners") are also often seen. Merret (1666) claimed that the "lanar" lived in Sherwood Forest and the Forest of Dean in England; such populations would seem to derive from escaped hunting birds of the nobility.
In the wild lanner falcon numbers are somewhat declining in Europe, though the species remains relatively common in parts of Africa.
Painting by John Gerrard Keulemans (1884)
Juvenile, probably F. b. feldeggi. Note blue facial skin and overall similarity to saker falcon.
A gyrfalcon's head showing the "twice-armed" falcon bill (number 2).
- BirdLife International (2013). "Falco biarmicus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- Possibly 1841 (Sharpe 1874: 389), or 1844 (Strickland 1855: 80).
- Etymology: Falco, Latin for a falcon. biarmicus, Latin for "being twice armed", in reference to the additional sharp points behind the billtip. These are typical of falcons in general however, not just this species.
- Helbig et al. (1994), Wink et al. (1998), Wink et al. (2004), Nittinger et al. (2005)
- Leonardi, Giovanni (1999). "Cooperative Hunting of Jackdaws by the Lanner Falcon (Falco biarmicus)". Journal of Raptor Research 33 (2): 123–27.
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- Helbig, A.J.; Seibold, I.; Bednarek, W.; Brüning, H.; Gaucher, P.; Ristow, D.; Scharlau, W.; Schmidl, D. & Wink, Michael (1994): Phylogenetic relationships among falcon species (genus Falco) according to DNA sequence variation of the cytochrome b gene. In: Meyburg, B.-U. & Chancellor, R.D. (eds.): Raptor conservation today: 593–599.
- Merret, Christopher (1666): Pinax rerum naturalium Britannicarum continens vegetabilia, animalia et fossilia, in hac insulā repperta inchoatus Pulleyn and F. & T. Warren, London.
- Nittinger, F.; Haring, E.; Pinsker, W.; Wink, Michael & Gamauf, A. (2005). "Out of Africa? Phylogenetic relationships between Falco biarmicus and other hierofalcons (Aves Falconidae)". Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research 43 (4): 321–331. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0469.2005.00326.x.
- Sharpe, Richard Bowdler (1874): Catalogue of the birds in the British Museum 1. British Museum (Natural History), London.
- Strickland, Hugh Edwin (1855): Ornithological Synonyms. J. Van Voorst, London.
- Wink, Michael; Seibold, I.; Lotfikhah, F. & Bednarek, W. (1998): Molecular systematics of holarctic raptors (Order Falconiformes). In: Chancellor, R.D., Meyburg, B.-U. & Ferrero, J.J. (eds.): Holarctic Birds of Prey: 29–48. Adenex & WWGBP.
- Wink, Michael; Sauer-Gürth, Hedi; Ellis, David & Kenward, Robert (2004): Phylogenetic relationships in the Hierofalco complex (Saker-, Gyr-, Lanner-, Laggar Falcon). In: Chancellor, R.D. & Meyburg, B.-U. (eds.): Raptors Worldwide: 499–504. WWGBP, Berlin.