Australian Bush Birds
Brown Falcon  -  Falco berigora
Brown Falcon
Brown Falcon on a fencepost lookout near Nhill, Victoria.
Brown Falcon
Brown Falcon on a dead tree near Stanley, Tasmania. The light-coloured face is more typical of this variably coloured species than the darker face in the upper photograph.
The Brown Falcon - Falco berigora - is uniformly brown above with dark facial marks; under parts are whitish with dark streaks or blotched brown and white, or wholly dark brown. Under wings pale and barred. Birds from Central Australia are usually paler in colour and those from the tropical north are often very dark. There are six different colour forms. Different colour schemes were formerly identified as sub-species but this differentiation has been abandoned in favour of describing different morphs (rufous, brown intermediate, brown pale, etc). The light rufous morph is most widely found inland. The dark morph may be confused with the Black Falcon. Legs long and grey, feet grey, feathers forming 'trousers' around top of legs. Eye dark brown; bill blue-grey with black tip, skin around eye usually grey-white.

Brown Falcon - page 2
Females are larger but coloured similarly to males which are 45 centimetres long with wingspan 89 to 109 centimetres, females are 50 centimetres long) First year juveniles usually have darker under parts with a buff face and broad buff collar.

Facial marking comprising broad, dark vertical bands directly below the eye and from behind the eye then curving downward (clearly visible in the head photograph below) are characteristic of this widespread and variable coloured species.

Brown Falcon Head of Brown Falcon showing the two broad vertical dark-coloured facial bands typical of the species.
Rarely chases prey in flight, feeds mostly on the ground; hunts reptiles, grasshoppers, beetles and mice and also feeds on carrion. Able to run and leap at agile small prey such as mice, lizards, snakes (up to a metre long) and small ground birds. Will take small birds by surprise while gliding low across scrub or grassland. Wing-beat and flight are slow; usually sits quietly on a high perch such as a dead tree branch, telephone pole or fence post while watching the ground ready to drop on to prey. Flight is slow and heavy, glides on raised wings; hovers clumsily. Wing tips are blunt and flexible, the tail is rounded.

map map Usually alone or in pairs. One of the most widespread Australian raptors it primarily lives in open grassy woodlands but is well adapted to agricultural areas and towns and is also found in open forest areas. Avoids dense forests. Found all over Australia, including Tasmania.

The Brown Falcon's call is a loud raucous cackling. Often begins calling kilometres before reaching the nest and continues until in the nest; no matter how well a nest is concealed the noise draws attention to it.

Breeds opportunistically between June and November in the south and until after March in the north. Usually takes over an abandoned nest built by another hawk species; occasionally builds its own nest of sticks lined with finer material and green leaves. Two to five, usually three, eggs; pale buff with many red-brown spots and blotches; oval, about 50 mm by 38 mm. Incubated by both parents for about 33 days although the female does most of the nest work while the male hunts.

When he brings food back to the nest she meets him nearby where she eats the food or takes it back to the nest to feed the young. Young fledge in 36 to 45 days, they become independent within days of fledging and leave their parents a few weeks later and disperse widely. Males are three years old at first breeding, females are two years old.

 ¶  Genus Falco is the only genus in Family Falconidae and contains other Falcons, the Australian Hobby and the Nankeen Kestrel.