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Bird of the Week: Lanner Falcon
Our first-ever falcon, and it is SPECTACULAR.
OK, confession time. Bless us, bird father/mother/gender-nonconforming parental figure, for we have sinned. We have been doing Bird of the Week for almost exactly two years now (it’s true!) but there is one kind of bird we have never, ever highlighted, even though Caitlin thinks they are “the coolest birds.”
We are speaking about none other than…..the falcon.
Yes, you are right to gasp. We prostrate ourselves at your feet. It’s a monumental oversight. But we are also here to atone for our sins. So let’s get to it.
Meet the lanner falcon.
BOOM BANG POW RIGHT TO THE SOLAR PLEXUS. What a knockout. Caitlin said she loves falcons because they are “intense and elegant,” and that is a perfect description of the lanner falcon. It’s a beautiful coiled spring of a bird.
Love the mutton chops. How can you not be slightly in awe of this creature?
Lanner falcons live all over Africa, and also a bunch of Southern Europe and a little smidgen of the Middle East. If you’re thinking “wow, a lot of those places are not like a lot of those other places,” this is true, but the lanner falcon is cool with it. From the Peregrine Fund:
The Lanner Falcon lives in a wide variety of habitats from sea level to 7,500 feet. It can live in deserts, forests, woods, plains, and savannas, but needs rocky crags and cliffs nearby for nesting. It can even be seen in areas where people live. In Ethiopa, for example, it has been observed in the middle of cities perching quite happily on top of lamp posts!
“I’ll live anywhere as long as there’s a crag for me”—don’t you love a roommate who doesn’t come in with a ton of demands?
I guess that’s not totally true, because the lanner falcon needs one other thing: food. Yes, it’s time to get to the hunting part. This is not one of your shy little “I’ll just take some seeds, thanks” birds. This is a falcon! It’s an “I’ll just take all you other birds—oh, and also a lot of other things” bird. From the Toronto Zoo:
Their preferred food is small to medium sized birds, like thrushes or pigeons. However, they will also take bats, insects, small mammals, and reptiles. In rare circumstances, the Lanner falcon has been known to take domestic fowl. Food on the wing is hunted horizontally and caught in flight. They often share their hunting territory with other raptors, like owls, kestrels, and other falcons.
Falcons are bioengineered to be ferociously efficient killers. They have something called a “tomial tooth,” a little notch on the upper part of their beak which is there to help them sever the neck or the spinal cord of their prey in flight. (You’d think the very scary talons would help, but they mostly need those to keep their meal in place.) So, y’know, watch out for your neck around a lanner falcon. It also flies at up to 90 miles per hour, which, while not in peregrine falcon territory, is extremely fast!
That said, lanners put a nice little spin on the whole thing. From the Pennsylvania Falconry and Hawk Trust (which is interested in the lanner because it has been used in falconry for many centuries):
Lanner falcons are also one of the few types of raptor that will naturally engage in cooperative hunting. Mated pairs will often hunt together and they have also been known to hunt in small groups during winter months if food becomes scarce.
Working together in a co-op to obtain and then share resources? Sounds familiar!!! Not only that, but they are enlightened about gender roles: according to the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, “Males flush out prey for females to fly in and capture it.” The female lanners get to be the alpha predators! Lanner falcons are leftists, it’s canon now.
But wait, there’s more! From the Carnegie Museum of Natural History:
Lanner Falcons, for example, [are] a species well-represented in ancient Egyptian art works…the falcon, as I could see with my own eyes, was fast, fierce, and powerful, which is why it was used to represent a god in ancient Egypt.
The god Horus, represented as a falcon or a human with a falcon head, was a sun god as well as the ancient Egyptian god of kingship, representing the living king of Egypt. Falcons, along with other birds, could have easily been seen by everyone in ancient Egypt. The sight of a falcon soaring overhead near the sun would have been a particularly striking scene. The pharaoh was believed to be not merely a powerful ruler, but to be the embodiment of the god, Horus. The job of Horus was to protect Egyptians in their daily lives, just like the pharaoh. In recognition of Horus’s important role, people would decorate their tombs with falcons. In later periods the ancient Egyptians offered mummified falcons to Horus, gifts which were sometimes placed in a small coffin with a bronze falcon on top.
A leftist with stunning looks and an ancient god pedigree? This bird’s got it all. Let’s do some videos.
The lanner isn’t even, like, doing anything in this video, but it’s spine-tingling.
Here’s a video of the falcon hunting—it’s so fast that the person filing it has to slow the video way, way, way down just so you can spot it flying past:
Here’s another video of the falcon flying around.
And here’s the craziest video of them all. Wait until about 24 seconds in, and you’ll gasp.
All hail the lanner falcon—our first falcon but NOT our last.