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Falcons and caracaras
Temporal range: Early EoceneHolocene, 55–0 Ma
Peregrine falcon
(Falco peregrinus)
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Clade: Eufalconimorphae
Order: Falconiformes
Sharpe, 1874


The order Falconiformes (/fælˈkɒnɪˌfɔːrmz/) is represented by the extant family Falconidae (falcons and caracaras) and a handful of enigmatic Paleogene species. Traditionally, the other bird of prey families Cathartidae (New World vultures and condors), Sagittariidae (secretarybird), Pandionidae (ospreys), Accipitridae (hawks) were classified in Falconiformes. A variety of comparative genome analysis published since 2008, however, found that falcons are part of a clade of birds called Australaves, which also includes seriemas, parrots and passerines.[1][2][3] Within Australaves falcons are more closely related to the parrot-passerine clade (Psittacopasserae), which together they form the clade Eufalconimorphae.[4][2][3] The hawks and vultures occupy a basal branch in the clade Afroaves in their own clade Accipitrimorphae, closer to owls and woodpeckers.[1][2][3][5]

See below cladogram of Telluraves relationships based on Braun & Kimball (2021):[6]


Cathartiformes (New World vultures)

Accipitriformes (hawks and relatives)

Strigiformes (owls)


Coliiformes (mouse birds)


Leptosomiformes (cuckoo roller)

Trogoniformes (trogons and quetzals)


Bucerotiformes (hornbills and relatives)


Coraciiformes (kingfishers and relatives)

Piciformes (woodpeckers and relatives)


Cariamiformes (seriemas)


Falconiformes (falcons)


Psittaciformes (parrots)

Passeriformes (passerines)

The fossil record of Falconiformes sensu stricto is poorly documented. The only stem-falcons that have mostly complete remains are Masillaraptor parvunguis and Danielsraptor phorusrhacoides, while the other taxa Stintonornis mitchelli and Parvulivenator watteli are known from fragmentary remains.[7] Mayr (2009) noted the similarity of Masillaraptor to the seriemas. One study from Wang et al. (2012) using 30 nuclear loci from 28 taxa found Falconidae and Cariamidae being sister taxa to each other.[8] This has, however, not been supported by the latest major neoavian phylogenetic studies.[2][3][9][10][11][12][5] A 2022 study recovers massilaraptorids as true falcons.[13]


  1. ^ a b Hackett, Shannon J.; Kimball, Rebecca T.; Reddy, Sushma; Bowie, Rauri C. K.; Braun, Edward L.; Braun, Michael J.; Chojnowski, Jena L.; Cox, W. Andrew; et al. (2008). "A Phylogenomic Study of Birds Reveals Their Evolutionary History". Science. 320 (5884): 1763–68. Bibcode:2008Sci...320.1763H. doi:10.1126/science.1157704. PMID 18583609. S2CID 6472805.
  2. ^ a b c d Jarvis, E.D.; et al. (2014). "Whole-genome analyses resolve early branches in the tree of life of modern birds". Science. 346 (6215): 1320–1331. Bibcode:2014Sci...346.1320J. doi:10.1126/science.1253451. PMC 4405904. PMID 25504713.
  3. ^ a b c d Prum, Richard O.; Berv, Jacob S.; Dornberg, Alex; Field, Daniel J.; Townsend, Jeffrey P.; Lemmon, Emily Moriarty; Lemmon, Alan R. (2015). "A comprehensive phylogeny of birds (Aves) using targeted next-generation DNA sequencing". Nature. 526 (7574): 569–573. Bibcode:2015Natur.526..569P. doi:10.1038/nature15697. PMID 26444237. S2CID 205246158.
  4. ^ Alexander Suh; Martin Paus; Martin Kiefmann; Gennady Churakov; Franziska Anni Franke; Jürgen Brosius; Jan Ole Kriegs; Jürgen Schmitz (2011). "Mesozoic retroposons reveal parrots as the closest living relatives of passerine birds". Nature Communications. 2 (8): 443. Bibcode:2011NatCo...2..443S. doi:10.1038/ncomms1448. PMC 3265382. PMID 21863010.
  5. ^ a b Kuhl., H.; Frankl-Vilches, C.; Bakker, A.; Mayr, G.; Nikolaus, G.; Boerno, S. T.; Klages, S.; Timmermann, B.; Gahr, M. (2020). "An unbiased molecular approach using 3'UTRs resolves the avian family-level tree of life". Molecular Biology and Evolution. 38: 108–127. doi:10.1093/molbev/msaa191. PMC 7783168. PMID 32781465.
  6. ^ Braun, E.L.; Kimball, R.T. (2021). "Data types and the phylogeny of Neoaves". Birds. 2 (1): 1–22. doi:10.3390/birds2010001.
  7. ^ Mayr, G. (2018). "Phylogeny, Taxonomy, and Geographic Diversity of Diurnal Raptors: Falconiformes, Accipitriformes, and Cathartiformes". Birds of Prey. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer. pp. 3–32. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-73745-4_1. ISBN 978-3-540-89627-2.
  8. ^ Wang, N.; Braun, E. L.; Kimball, R. T. (2012). "Testing Hypotheses about the Sister Group of the Passeriformes Using an Independent 30-Locus Data Set". Molecular Biology and Evolution. 29 (2): 737–750. doi:10.1093/molbev/msr230. PMID 21940640.
  9. ^ Suh, Alexander (2016). "The phylogenomic forest of bird trees contains a hard polytomy at the root of Neoaves". Zoologica Scripta. 45: 50–62. doi:10.1111/zsc.12213. ISSN 0300-3256.
  10. ^ Reddy, Sushma; Kimball, Rebecca T.; Pandey, Akanksha; Hosner, Peter A.; Braun, Michael J.; Hackett, Shannon J.; Han, Kin-Lan; Harshman, John; Huddleston, Christopher J.; Kingston, Sarah; Marks, Ben D.; Miglia, Kathleen J.; Moore, William S.; Sheldon, Frederick H.; Witt, Christopher C.; Yuri, Tamaki; Braun, Edward L. (2017). "Why Do Phylogenomic Data Sets Yield Conflicting Trees? Data Type Influences the Avian Tree of Life more than Taxon Sampling". Systematic Biology. 66 (5): 857–879. doi:10.1093/sysbio/syx041. ISSN 1063-5157. PMID 28369655.
  11. ^ Braun, Edward L.; Cracraft, Joel; Houde, Peter (2019). "Resolving the Avian Tree of Life from Top to Bottom: The Promise and Potential Boundaries of the Phylogenomic Era". Avian Genomics in Ecology and Evolution. pp. 151–210. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-16477-5_6. ISBN 978-3-030-16476-8. S2CID 198399272.
  12. ^ Houde, Peter; Braun, Edward L.; Narula, Nitish; Minjares, Uriel; Mirarab, Siavash (2019). "Phylogenetic Signal of Indels and the Neoavian Radiation". Diversity. 11 (7): 108. doi:10.3390/d11070108. ISSN 1424-2818.
  13. ^ Mayr, Gerald; Kitchener, Andrew C. (2022). "New fossils from the London Clay show that the Eocene Masillaraptoridae are stem group representatives of falcons (Aves, Falconiformes)". Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. 41 (6): e2083515. doi:10.1080/02724634.2021.2083515. S2CID 250402777.