Lanner falcon

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Lanner falcon
Lanner Falcon 800.jpg
Adult Falco biarmicus feldeggi
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Falconiformes
Family: Falconidae
Genus: Falco
Subgenus: Hierofalco
F. biarmicus
Binomial name
Falco biarmicus
Temminck, 1825
Range of Falco biarmicus
  Possibly Extant (resident)

Falco feldeggii Schlegel, 1841
Falco lanarius Linnaeus, 1758

The lanner falcon (Falco biarmicus) is a medium-sized bird of prey that breeds in Africa, southeast Europe and just into Asia. It prefers open habitat and is mainly resident, but some birds disperse more widely after the breeding season. A large falcon, it preys on birds and bats.[2]


The lanner falcon was described by the Dutch zoologist Coenraad Jacob Temminck in 1825 under the current binomial name Falco biarmicus.[3] The type locality is Caffraria and the Cape of Good Hope.[4] Falco is Late Latin for a "falcon", from falx, falcis "sickle". The Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus had used the specific epithet biarmicus for the bearded reedling and Temminck clearly believed that the word meant "bearded" but it is likely that Linnaeus was using the Latinized form for Bjarmaland, a district in northern Russia.[5] The English word "lanner" is believed to come from the Old French lanier meaning "cowardly". The first recorded use of the word in English is from around 1400.[6]

This is presumably the oldest living hierofalcon species. Support for this assumption comes mainly from biogeography agreeing better with the confusing pattern of DNA sequence data in this case than in others. Nonetheless, there is rampant hybridization (see also perilanner) and incomplete lineage sorting which confounds the data to a massive extent; molecular studies with small sample sizes can simply not be expected to yield reliable conclusions in the entire hierofalcon group.

In any case, the radiation of the entire living diversity of hierofalcons seems to have taken place in the Eemian interglacial at the start of the Late Pleistocene, a mere 130,000–115,000 years ago; the lanner falcons would thus represent the lineage that became isolated in sub-Saharan Africa at some time during the Riss glaciation (200,000 to 130,000 years ago) already.[7][8][9][10]

There are five recognised subspecies:[11]

  • F. b. biarmicus Temminck, 1825 – The nominate subspecies, ranges from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to southern Kenya south to South Africa
  • F. b. feldeggii Schlegel, 1843 – Italy to Turkey, Azerbaijan and northwestern Iran
  • F. b. tanypterus Schlegel, 1843 – northeastern Africa to Arabia, Israel and Iraq
  • F. b. erlangeri Kleinschmidt, O., 1901 – northwestern Africa
  • F. b. abyssinicus Neumann, 1904 – southern Mauritania to Ethiopia and Somalia south to Cameroon and northern Kenya


Flying in South Africa
Eggs, Collection Museum Wiesbaden

It is a large falcon, at 43–50 cm (17–20 in) length with a wingspan of 95–105 cm (37–41 in). European lanner falcons (Falco biarmicus feldeggi, also called Feldegg's falcon) have slate grey or brown-grey upperparts; most African subspecies are a paler blue grey above. The breast is streaked in northern birds, resembling greyish saker falcons, but the lanner has a reddish back to the head. Sexes are similar, but the browner young birds resemble saker falcons even more. However, sakers have a lighter top of the head and less clear head-side patterns. The lanner's call is a harsh "wray-e".

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Lanner falcons are predominantly located in open habitats and can range from the forest edge to the desert. However, they are most commonly found in open savannah and sour grasslands. In South Africa, they commonly inhabit the east of the country in grasslands and move into the Fynbos, Nama Karoo and Southern Kalahari during the non-breeding season.[12]

Despite this movement, they are not truly migratory birds, and are usually limited to local movements. These movements may be in response to seasonal rains and altitudes, where higher elevations are inhabited during breeding season, and lower elevations are inhabited out of breeding season.[12]

They are bred in captivity for falconry; hybrids with the peregrine ("perilanners") are also often seen. Merret (1666) claimed that the "lanar" lived in Sherwood Forest and the Forest of Dean in England; such populations would seem to have derived from escaped hunting birds of the nobility.[13] Edward I of England (reigned 1272-1307), who had a passion for falconry, owned at least one lanner.

In the wild, lanner falcon numbers are somewhat declining in Europe, though the species remains relatively common in parts of Africa. In the Degua Tembien mountains of Ethiopia, it was observed to contribute to controlling pest rodents.[14]



Females usually moult from September to January, after the nesting period is over. Whereas, males moult from November to May, once the chicks can hunt for themselves.[15]


Lanner falcons most commonly prey on other birds, including doves, pigeons and domestic chickens or fowls.[16] These falcons have also been seen to prey on small mammals, reptiles and invertebrates. In Africa and Israel, lanner falcons were observed as hunting bats.[2]


It usually hunts by horizontal pursuit, rather than the peregrine falcon's stoop from a height, and takes mainly bird prey in flight. However, these raptors make use of a multitude of hunting styles, including stooping after soaring, attacking from a perch, attacking from a fast, low coursing flight and aerial attacks from a perch.[15] Lanner Falcons also exhibit co-operative hunting with high success rate specifically when hunting Jackdaws, where the use of visual contact is used to coordinate the chase.[17] Males most commonly make the initial attack, yet the prey is usually caught by the female.


Before the breeding season, both males and females show mutual soaring and flapping flight which are closely synchronized from April to June. Near nesting sites, pairs have also been seen to power-dive together.[15]

Once eggs are fledged, the females predominantly stays with and feeds the juveniles. However, the males take over this role when the female needs to hunt. when the juveniles are about 25 days old, the female is commonly seen perched near the nest, but still spends a large amount of time in the nest with the juveniles. when the juveniles are about 39 days old, the females does not spend large amounts of time in the nest anymore and both the female and male are actively hunting.[15]

Nesting habits[edit]

Lanner falcons usually nest of sheer cliff faces, and lay three or four eggs. They do not have strict nesting regulations and as a result are more common and do not show a patchy distribution. As a result they also make use of old crow nests and are sometimes seen nesting on pylons, trees and less steep cliff faces.[18]


Lanner falcon have a laying period in July which suggests a strategy to fledge young before the heat and heavy rain of the summer as well as before the influx of migratory birds during December to February. This timing may improve foraging conditions for juveniles which can increase the success of breeding. Breeding success for these falcons is largely affected by environmental conditions.[19] The incubation period is thought to be 32 days and the nesting period to be 44 days. However, juveniles have been present near nests up  to ten weeks after fledgling.[15] The mean fledgling rate is 2.24 young per successful pair which is typical of large falcons, however, the mean number of individuals fledged overall per territorial pair is 1.3 which is low and may be due to the number of unproductive years towards the end of each territory's occupancy.[15]


Lanner falcons are of least concern on the ICUN red list, yet they can still be negatively affected through anthropogenic process, directly and indirectly.

Direct anthropogenic threats to these raptors include nest robbery, vehicle collisions, electrocution form power lines and persecution. As chicks can barely fly when leaving the nest they are vulnerable and easy to catch, they are threatened by being captured for falconries and through being caught and killed by angry farmers as a result of these birds sometimes preying on domestic chickens.[15]

Indirect anthropogenic threats include loss of suitable habitats as a result of human expansion and the intensive use of pesticides for agriculture.[12]



  1. ^ BirdLife International (2016). "Falco biarmicus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016: e.T22696487A93567240. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22696487A93567240.en. Retrieved 18 November 2021.
  2. ^ a b Mikula, P.; Morelli, F.; Lučan, R. K.; Jones, D. N.; Tryjanowski, P. (2016). "Bats as prey of diurnal birds: a global perspective". Mammal Review. 46 (3): 160–174. doi:10.1111/mam.12060.
  3. ^ Temminck, Coenraad Jacob (1825). Nouveau recueil de planches coloriées d'oiseaux, pour servir de suite et de complément aux planches enluminées de Buffon (in French). Vol. 1. Paris: F.G. Levrault. Plate 324. The 5 volumes were originally issued in 102 parts, 1820-1839
  4. ^ Mayr, Ernst; Cottrell, G. William, eds. (1979). Check-list of Birds of the World. Vol. 1 (2nd ed.). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Museum of Comparative Zoology. p. 419.
  5. ^ Jobling, James A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. pp. 71, 151. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  6. ^ "lanner". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  7. ^ Helbig, A.J.; Seibold, I.; Bednarek, W.; Brüning, H.; Gaucher, P.; Ristow, D.; Scharlau, W.; Schmidl, D.; Wink, Michael (1994). Meyburg, B.-U.; Chancellor, R.D. (eds.). Phylogenetic relationships among falcon species (genus Falco) according to DNA sequence variation of the cytochrome b gene (PDF). Raptor conservation today. pp. 593–599.
  8. ^ Wink, Michael; Seibold, I.; Lotfikhah, F.; Bednarek, W. (1998). Chancellor, R.D.; Meyburg, B.-U.; Ferrero, J.J. (eds.). Molecular systematics of holarctic raptors (Order Falconiformes) (PDF). Holarctic Birds of Prey. Adenex & WWGBP. pp. 29–48.
  9. ^ Nittinger, F.; Haring, E.; Pinsker, W.; Wink, Michael; Gamauf, A. (2005). "Out of Africa? Phylogenetic relationships between Falco biarmicus and other hierofalcons (Aves Falconidae)" (PDF). Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research. 43 (4): 321–331. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0469.2005.00326.x.
  10. ^ Wink, Michael; Sauer-Gürth, Hedi; Ellis, David; Kenward, Robert (2004). Chancellor, R.D.; Meyburg, B.-U. (eds.). Phylogenetic relationships in the Hierofalco complex (Saker-, Gyr-, Lanner-, Laggar Falcon) (PDF). Raptors Worldwide. Berlin: WWGBP. pp. 499–504.
  11. ^ Gill, Frank; Donsker, David, eds. (2017). "Falcons". World Bird List Version 7.3. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
  12. ^ a b c Jenkins, Andrew R. (1994-12-01). "The Influence of Habitat on the Distribution and Abundance of Peregrine and Lanner Falcons in South Africa". Ostrich. 65 (3–4): 281–290. doi:10.1080/00306525.1994.9632688. ISSN 0030-6525.
  13. ^ Merret, Christopher (1666). Pinax rerum naturalium Britannicarum continens vegetabilia, animalia et fossilia, in hac insula reperta inchoatus (in Latin). London: Pulleyn and F. & T. Warren.
  14. ^ Meheretu Yonas; Leirs, H (2019). Raptor perch sites for biological control of agricultural pest rodents. In: Nyssen J., Jacob, M., Frankl, A. (Eds.). Geo-trekking in Ethiopia's Tropical Mountains - The Dogu'a Tembien District. SpringerNature. ISBN 978-3-030-04954-6.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g Kemp, A. C. (1993-03-01). "Breeding Biology of Lanner Falcons Near Pretoria, South Africa". Ostrich. 64 (1): 26–31. doi:10.1080/00306525.1993.9634192. ISSN 0030-6525.
  16. ^ Jenkins, A.R (2000). "Variation in the quality of parental care at falcon nests in South Africa as evidence for postulated differences in food availability". Ardea. 88 (1): 17–32.
  17. ^ Leonardi, Giovanni (1999). "Cooperative hunting of Jackdaws by the Lanner Falcon (Falco biarmicus)" (PDF). Journal of Raptor Research. 33 (2): 123–127.
  18. ^ Jenkins, Andrew (2000-09-01). "Characteristics of Peregrine and Lanner Falcon nesting habitats in South Africa". Ostrich. 71 (3–4): 416–424. doi:10.1080/00306525.2000.9639844. ISSN 0030-6525. S2CID 85169008.
  19. ^ Jenkins, Andrew (September 2000). "Factors affecting breeding success of Peregrine and Lanner Falcons in South Africa". Ostrich. 71 (3–4): 385–392. doi:10.1080/00306525.2000.9639837. ISSN 0030-6525. S2CID 84877884.

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