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Shaheen Falcon

The Shaheen Falcon (Falco peregrinus peregrinator), also known as the Indian Peregrine Falcon,[2] Black Shaheen, Indian Shaheen, or simply the Shaheen,[3] is a non-migratory subspecies of the Peregrine Falcon found mainly on the Indian subcontinent and the nearby island of Sri Lanka.[4]


The taxon was formally described by Carl Jakob Sundevall in 1837.[5] It has sometimes been referred to as Falco atriceps or Falco shaheen.


The Shaheen is a small and powerful-looking falcon with blackish upperparts, rufous underparts with fine, dark streaks, and white on the throat. The complete black face mask is sharply demarcated from the white throat. It has distinctive rufous underwing-coverts. It differs in all these features from the paler F. p. calidus, which is a scarce winter migrant to Sri Lanka.[1] Males and females have similar markings and plumage; apart from size there is no sexual dimorphism.[2] The birds range in length from 380 to 440 mm.[1] The male is about the size of a House Crow (Corvus splendens); the female is larger.[2]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The Shaheen is found in South Asia from Pakistan and Kashmir region over across to India and Bangladesh in the east and to Sri Lanka and south-eastern China. In India, it has been recorded in all states (except Uttar Pradesh), mainly from rocky and hilly regions. The Shaheen has also been reported from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal.[6]

Sri Lanka[edit]

The Shaheen is the local resident race of the Peregrine in Sri Lanka[1] where it is uncommon but found throughout the island in the lowlands, and up to 1200 m in the hill country,[2] frequenting mountain cliffs and rock outcrops. The sheer cliff faces provide it with nest sites and serve as vantage points from which it can launch aerial strikes against fast-flying birds such as swifts.[7] Sigiriya is a well known site for it.[1]

Ecology and behaviour[edit]

The Shaheen is usually seen as a solitary bird, or in pairs on cliffs and rock pinnacles. Peregrines typically mate for life.[2] Because of the size difference between a male and a female, a mated pair generally hunt different prey species. It is adapted to taking prey in the air and can achieve a speed of 240 kmh in level flight; when diving after prey it can exceed speeds of 320  kmh (200 mph).[8]


Shaheens mostly hunt small birds, though medium-sized birds such as pigeons and parrots are also taken.[2] Strong and fast, they dive from great heights to strike prey with their talons. If the impact does not kill the prey, the falcon bites the neck of its victim to ensure death.


The reproductive season is from December to April. The birds occupy nests on high cliff ledges or in cavities and tunnels.[2] They lay clutches of 3-4 eggs. The chicks fledge within 48 days with an average nesting success of 1.32 chicks per nest.[6] In India the Shaheen has been recorded as nesting on man-made structures such as buildings and mobile phone transmission towers.[6]


The conservation status of the Shaheen in Sri Lanka is vulnerable.[1] A population estimate of 40 breeding pairs there was made in 1996.[9]

Pakistani culture[edit]

The bird is the Shaheen falcon

In Pakistani literature, the Shaheen has a special association with the poetry of the country's national poet, Allama Muhammad Iqbal.[10] It also appears on the official seal of the Pakistan Air Force logo.

Further reading[edit]

  • Döttlinger, Hermann. (2002). The Black Shaheen Falcon (Falco Peregrinus Peregrinator Sundevall 1837), its Morphology, Geographic Variation and the History and Ecology of the Sri Lanka (Ceylon) Population. ISBN 3-8311-3626-2


  1. ^ a b c d e f Gehan de Silva Wijeratne; Deepal Warakagoda & T.S.U. de Zylva (2007). "Species description". A Photographic Guide to Birds of Sri Lanka. New Holland Publishers (UK) Ltd. p. 37. ISBN 978-1-85974-511-3. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Manjula Vijesundara (2007). Sinhala Kurulu Vishvakoshaya (Sinhala Bird Encyclopaedia) - Part 1. Suriya Publishers. p. 278. ISBN 955-8892-94-7. 
  3. ^ The shaheen (شاهین) of Arabic and Persian writers are usually Barbary Falcons; those in Indian (शाहीन) and Pakistani (شاہین) sources normally refer to peregrinator.
  4. ^ Döttlinger, Hermann; & Nicholls, Mike (2005). "Distribution and population trends of the ‘black shaheen’ Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus peregrinator and the eastern Peregrine Falcon F. p. calidus in Sri Lanka". Forktail 21: 133–138. 
  5. ^ "Avibase the wirld bird database". 
  6. ^ a b c Pande, Satish; Yosef, Reuven; Mahabal, Anil (2009), "Distribution of the Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus babylonicus, F. p. calidus and F. p. peregrinator) in India with some notes on the nesting habits of the Shaheen Falcon", in Sielicki, Janusz, Peregrine Falcon populations – Status and Perspectives in the 21st Century, Mizera, Tadeusz, European Peregrine Falcon Working Group and Society for the Protection of Wild animals "Falcon", Poland and Turl Publishing & Poznan University of Life Sciences Press, Warsaw-Poznan, pp. 493–520, ISBN 978-83-920969-6-2 
  7. ^ de Silva Wijeyeratne, G (June–July 2006). "The Shaheen Falcon - Sri Lanka through a Lens". Synergy (Synergy) 03 (02): Page 53. ISSN 1391-9385. 
  8. ^ U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (1999), All about the Peregrine falcon, archived from the original on 2008-04-16, retrieved 2007-08-13 
  9. ^ Döttlinger,Hermann; Hoffmann,Thilo W (1999), "Status of the Black Shaheen or Indian Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus peregrinator in Sri Lanka", J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 96 (2): 239–243. 
  10. ^ "National Symbols of Pakistan". Government of Pakistan. Retrieved 2013-08-23. 
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