See more Birds

Lanner Falcon

Falco biarmicus

  1. Not Evaluated
  2. Data Deficient
  3. Least Concern
  4. Near Threatened
  5. Vulnerable
  6. Endangered
  7. Critically Endangered
  8. Extinct in the Wild
  9. Extinct

About Us

The lanner falcon is one of the larger members of the falcon family. The falcon family contains some of the fastest birds in the world, and just like them the lanner is a fast and agile flyer, reaching high speeds when diving, and flying horizontally. Their scientific name comes from the Latin ‘falcis’ meaning sickle shaped, referring to either  its long curved  talons, or possibly its wing shape, and the Latin ‘biarmicus’ translated as ‘Being twice armed’, referring to the sharp notch in the beak, known as the tomial tooth, which all falcons have, as an extra tool to help kill their prey.

Here at Woburn we have one lanner falcon, called Jay. Jay likes to chase a swing lure to demonstrate his bird chasing skills, just as he would in the wild. He is still young, and is just starting to change from his juvenile plumage into his adult plumage.

Distribution
Africa, the Middle East and Mediterranean
Habitat
Flat, dry areas near sea level and forested mountains
Height
35 - 50cm in length
Weight
500 - 900g
Lifespan
Up to 15 years
Threats
Egg collection, pesticide poisoning, accidental electrocution, and human disturbance

Physical Features

The Lanner is a powerful bird of prey, built for speed. The body is a grey-brown or slate colour on the upper parts, with a creamy-white throat and under parts, with some dark patches or stripes. It has a reddish-brown crown. There are dark patches around the eye, extending back down the head, and with a long dark streak down from each eye toward the white cheek.  The wings have dark tips, and the tail has dark barring across it. Females are usually darker in colour, and larger, with more patterns and barring. The juvenile will have more brown colouration, and heavy streaking on the under parts. The skin around the face, and legs, starts as a pale blue colour, but will change to yellow as the bird matures. There are five subspecies of lanner falcon, all with regional colour and size variations.

Just as all of the falcon family the lanner falcon is built for speed, their sickle shaped wings allow them to stoop, or dive downwards, at high speeds to catch prey, although they prefer to chase prey horizontally, also reaching high speeds.

The falcon family all have a feature known as the falcons tooth, or tomial tooth. It is a small notch half way up their beak on either side, and on both the upper and lower parts. It is used to allow the bird to easily kill its prey by slotting between, and severing, the vertebrate of the animals.

Diet and Hunting Behaviour

The diet of the lanner falcon is mainly small to medium sized birds. They will take birds from the size of a lark, up to the size of a guinea fowl or duck. They have been known to take other falcons, and domestic poultry. It is not unusual for small mammals, mostly rodents and bats, to also be taken, along with insects, reptiles, and occasionally is food is scarce, carrion.

Hunting usually takes place during the day, with birds gathering where prey is likely to be, such as waterholes, nesting colonies, or grass fires. Large numbers of lanners may gather, numbering up to 20 birds. Unusually the lanner tends to hunt with its mate, hunting cooperatively, with one bird flushing out prey for the other to catch. They will also hunt with young birds, when teaching them. Some birds have been observed to learn to follow human hunters, taking any prey that they flush out. Unlike most birds of prey the lanner does not stoop, or dive, down on its prey, but instead prefers to chase horizontally. They will most often seize flying prey in the air, but will take some on the ground. They have been observed to steal food from other birds of prey.

They do not migrate, but are known to range hundreds of miles from their breeding territory to hunt.

The strong feet and talons are used to catch the prey, which is then dispatched with a nip from its beak. The falcon family all have a feature known as the falcons tooth, or tomial tooth. It is a small notch half way up their beak on either side, and on both the upper and lower parts. It is used to allow the bird to easily kill its prey by slotting between, and severing, the vertebrate of the animals. They will then use the sharp hooked end of the beak to tear up their food to eat it.

The lanner falcon will produce a pellet every day, a small package of all the parts of their food they cannot digest fully, such as the bones and fur or feathers, regurgitated. This removes the indigestible parts of food, but also cleans the digestive tract of any debris and bacteria.

Communication

The lanner is a solitary bird outside of breeding season, although they are often found hunting in pairs when taking larger prey, and when teaching young to hunt.

They communicate vocally, with a series of calls used mainly for courtship, and defence of territory. Teir most common call is a loud, repeated ‘kak-kak’.

Breeding

Little is known about the mating systems of lanner falcons, however both males and females engage in courtship displays, with elaborate flying and loud crying. They are thought to be monogamous, pairing for life.

Lanner falcons do not build new nests, but instead use old nests from other species, such as storks, corvids, herons, and other raptors. These nest sites are usually in trees, cliff faces, buildings, or on the ground in desert areas.

Breeding takes place at varying times of the year, depending on the geographical region, and subspecies. The female will lay 3 to 4 eggs, and both the male and female will take it in turn to incubate them for around 32 days. Once hatched, the chicks will take 35 to 47 days to fledge. During this time they will rely on the parents for food, and after 3 months will become independent. The male will do all of the hunting early on, but later in the nesting season and during the fledgling period the female will assist in hunting.

The lanner falcon is thought to reach sexual maturity at around 2 to 3 years old.

Husbandry

All of our birds of prey are flown daily. This has many benefits to the animal. Firstly it allows the animal to exercise, keeping them fit, and developing flying muscles. It also allows them to perform their natural behaviours, for some of our birds of prey this may include various hunting techniques such as catching prey mid-flight, and chasing down ground prey, or killing a (rubber) snake.

Each bird has a varied diet, just as it would in the wild, mimicking the varying nutritional properties of each food type and the quantities.

Threats and Conservation

There are no known natural predators to lanner falcons, however their eggs can fall prey to scavengers, and are often taken illegally for the pet and falconry industry.  They will occasionally have to compete for food sources with peregrine falcons, but have a slightly different diet and so can adjust its diet accordingly if competition for a certain resource is too high.

The lanner falcon tends to thrive in areas with less human disturbance. Egg theft is one of the most common threats, but nest disturbance in the form of rock climbers and intensive tourism has an impact on breeding.

They are occasionally persecuted and shot by farmers and hunters, due to their tendency to take domestic poultry when in agricultural areas.

The use of pesticides and organophosphates in the control of locusts and red bellied quelea can cause poisoning in many bird of prey species, including the lanner falcon, who will feed on them.

There are an estimated 1400 or less breeding pairs of lanner falcon in the world. Even with this low number they are widely found within their range, and therefore are listed as least concern on the IUCN red list. The European population is declining, whereas the African population is actually increasing. The European population is protected under the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), which aims to protect migratory species throughout their range, and lists them as appendix II. There is also a range of European legislation in place to protect them. Conservation efforts include a reduction in pesticide use, legal protection for key sites, habitat management, scientific research, and warden schemes to stop illegal shooting and egg theft.

They are listed as appendix II of CITES, which means the trade and export of this species is heavily regulated and controlled to protect them.

Fun Facts

The lanner, just like all falcons, has a small notch in its beak, known as a tomial tooth, which helps them to sever the spine of their prey!

The Lanner usually hunts with its partner, forming a sneak attack from two angles!

Unlike most birds of prey they will not dive down on their prey, but instead fly horizontally when chasing prey!