The Amur falcon feeds mainly on insects, including locusts, grasshoppers, beetles, and flying termites and ants. Small birds and some amphibians may also be taken. Most hunting takes place in the early morning or late evening, with prey usually caught and eaten in flight, or taken from the ground. The Amur falcon may sometimes hover while searching for prey (2) (5). A social bird, the Amur falcon is usually found in flocks, sometimes numbering into the hundreds or even thousands, and often associates with other small falcon species such as the red-footed falcon (Falco vespertinus
) and the lesser kestrel (Falco naumanni
) (2) (3) (8). The congregation of thousands of falcons at their communal roosting sites in southern Africa is said to be one of the most spectacular bird of prey phenomena in the world (9). Most nesting, however, is solitary, or in small colonies (2) (3). The nest may be built in a tree hole, or the breeding pair may take over an old nest of a corvid. Three to four eggs are laid (sometimes up to six), usually between May and June, and hatch after an incubation period of around 28 to 30 days. Both the male and female help incubate and feed the chicks, which fledge after about a month. The Amur falcon may reach sexual maturity in its first year (2). As well as being one of the longest, the Amur falcon's annual round-trip of 22,000 kilometres is also the most oceanic migrations of any bird of prey, with over 3,000 kilometres of the outbound journey to Africa taking place over the Indian Ocean (6). The entire population of Amur falcons leaves the breeding area in Asia from late August to September, generally travelling in huge flocks, which may also include other small falcon species. The birds stop off in India and Bangladesh for several weeks to fatten up before attempting the Indian Ocean crossing (2) (3) (6) (10). Interestingly, the return journey from Africa to Asia, which takes place between February and March, is less well understood, and is thought to take place overland via the Arabian Peninsula (6) (10), with the birds arriving back in the breeding grounds in April and early May (2).
A small, slender bird of prey, with long, pointed wings (5) (6), the Amur falcon is noteworthy for undertaking one of the most arduous annual migrations of any bird of prey (6). The male is a largely dark grey bird, with a chestnut lower belly and thighs, and a white underwing, visible in flight. The dark plumage contrasts with the bright orange-red legs and facial skin, and the orange base to the beak (3) (5). The female is similar in size to the male (3) (5), but differs markedly in plumage, having cream or orange underparts, with dark streaks and bars, grey upperparts with a slaty-coloured head and cream forehead, and bars and spots on the wings and tail, which have broad, dark tips. The cheeks and throat are plain white, and the face bears a dark eye patch and 'moustache'. The juvenile resembles the female, but may be paler, with reddish-brown or buff edges to the feathers. Once considered a subspecies of the red-footed falcon, Falco vespertinus
, differences in the plumage, body shape and range of the Amur falcon have led to its classification as a separate species (2) (3) (5).
Steppes of ne Asia; winters from Malawi to South Africa.
Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2014. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: Version 6.9. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
The Amur falcon has a wide distribution, breeding across Asia, from eastern Siberia, east through Amurland to Ussuriland, and south through northeast Mongolia and Manchuria, to North Korea and northern and eastern China. The species may also breed in northeast India. The Amur falcon spends the northern winter in the southern Hemisphere, in sub-Saharan Africa, mainly from Malawi to South Africa. During migration, the Amur falcon may pass through parts of India, East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula (2) (3) (5) (7).