Sooty Falcon (Falco concolor)

Sooty Falcon

[order] FALCONIFORMES | [family] Falconidae | [latin] Falco concolor | [authority] Temminck, 1825 | [UK] Sooty Falcon | [FR] Faucon concolore | [DE] Schieferfalke | [ES] Halcon Pizarroso | [NL] Woestijnvalk


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Falco concolor AF, EU e Libya to sw Pakistan


Members of the genus falco are mostly medium-sized falcons, but vary from the large peregrine falcon to the small American kestrel. The wings are long and pointed and used almost continuously during flight. The bill is short, powerful, and with a distinct ‘tooth’ on each side. Most falcons of this group have a black teardrop-shaped ‘mustache’ mark on each side of the head. Falcons are fastflying birds of open country and are famous for attaining high speeds as they dive from high altitudes to knock birds out of the air.

Physical charateristics

Medium-sized agile falcon with long narrow wings and long tail. Flight rapid and elastic with sudden swoops and dives but also soaring and gliding on flat wings. The adult is sooty-grey all over. On upperwings contrast between darker primaries wing-coverts but entirely lacking contrast in underwings. The juvenile: Shows pale tips to upperpart feathers and yellow-buff underparts with sooty-grey streaking. Throat, hindneck and cheeks all yellowish-buff. Size slightly larger than F.subbuteo, but smaller than F.elenorae. Resembles dark morph F.elenorae but with more prominent yellow cere, con-colourous underwings and jizz more similar to F.subbuteo. Juvenile even more similar, best seperated by stuctural differences and broad dark terminal band on undetail.

Listen to the sound of Sooty Falcon

[audio: Falcon.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

recorded by Wilme, Lucienne

wingspan min.: 78 cm wingspan max.: 90 cm
size min.: 32 cm size max.: 36 cm
incubation min.: 27 days incubation max.: 29 days
fledging min.: 32 days fledging max.: 38 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 4  


Africa, Eurasia : East Libya to Southwest Pakistan. Falco concolor breeds discontinuously and highly locally from Libya, eastwards through Egypt to the Red Sea islands off Sudan, Djibouti and Ethiopia, islands and coasts of north-west and south-west Saudi Arabia and north-west Yemen, southern Israel and south Jordan, as well as islands in the Persian Gulf from Qatar to Oman and south-west Pakistan; scattered records away from known breeding areas, especially in Arabia, suggest possible nesting in other parts of the region. Most of the population winters in Madagascar, but a small but unknown proportion winters in coastal Mozambique and eastern South Africa (south to southern Natal), and there is also limited over-wintering in the southern part of the breeding range.


It breeds in hot, arid environments; on cliffs, small rocky islands and rugged desert mountains where its breeding is timed to coincide with the autumn migration of small birds on which it feeds. In the non-breeding season it forages for large insects over grassland and open country with trees.


Breeds in late July or August. Most pairs nests on small, uninhabited islands, although it may also breed on the ground in mangroves. The timing of nesting is relatively late, enabling the chicks to be provided with migrant songbird and wader prey, and fledging occurs in early October. Nests on ledges or in potholes on cliffs. Clutch size is usually 2-3 eggs. The incubation period is about 27-30 days, and the chicks fledge 32-38 days later. The female handles incubation chores, and the male provides food for her and the chicks

Feeding habits

Feeds on small birds, bats, and insects, hunting on the wing, mostly in the late afternoon or early evening, or even at night. Although birds are the main prey in the breeding range, flying insects form the bulk of the diet in the winter range in southern Africa and Madagascar, although it will feed on birds when invertebrate prey are scarce though that they feed on larger bird species in the wintering range than in the breeding range. Prey are captured and eaten on the wing, and it is regularly seen hawking dragonflies over Muscat and Ruwi urban areas on summer evenings. Several falcons may hunt cooperatively, pursuing individual migrating birds at the same time.


This species has been uplisted to Near Threatened owing to concerns that its population may be much smaller than previously thought, and in decline. Detailed surveys and robust monitoring are much desired, and would lead to a clarification of its status.
Most of its breeding colonies are inaccessible or in protected areas so it would appear to be declining due to pressures in wintering grounds or on migration. Increased pesticide use has been suggested as a causal factor, but egg analysis indicates that it is at very low concentrations in these birds.
Sooty Falcon status Near Threatened


Migratory, wintering mainly in Madagascar; also, to lesser extent, on African mainland, in coastal Mozambique and East South Africa, with some birds perhaps further inland. Arrives in Madagascar from late October; last birds leave in early May, arriving in breeding areas mainly in April, in Israel from late October; late birds leave in early May, arriving in breeding areas mainly in April, in Israel from late April. Rare spring passage migrant to North West Somalia, where often claimed to breed.

Distribution map

Sooty Falcon distribution range map

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