Black Falcon Falco subniger Scientific name definitions

Stephen Debus
Version: 2.0 — Published March 17, 2023



Black Falcon frequents sparsely wooded lands, savanna, open country, and terrestrial wetlands of tropical and temperate Australia, especially in the arid and semi-arid zones and the eastern agricultural belt, on flat to undulating lands from sea level to about 1,400 m, though it mostly breeds below 500 m. Wooded habitats used are typically dominated by Eucalyptus or Acacia trees. Open habitats include grassland, shrub-steppe, sparsely vegetated clay or stony plains, wooded or treeless floodplains, dunefields, the margins of salt lakes, and agricultural or pastoral land. It is often associated with natural or artificial wetlands and water sources, especially in the arid and semi-arid zones. It nests in woodland or isolated trees, in mature live or dead trees, often in or near riparian habitats and wetlands or waterholes on lightly wooded plains, and in the arid zone. It visits towns and cities to forage aerially. Black Falcons sometimes perch atop tall dead trees and artificial structures in open or lightly wooded country and farmscapes, e.g., fence posts, power poles, high-voltage pylons, and agricultural windmills (1, 22, 3).

Habitat in Breeding Range

Black Falcon breeds over much of its core continental range on the coastal plains and valleys and the inland slopes and plains below 500 m elevation, but the species’ breeding habitat and some aspects of breeding microhabitat have been studied only in the eastern and southeastern Australian agricultural zone. Breeding and foraging habitat in that zone includes a mosaic of agricultural fields (crops and livestock grazing), paddock trees, remnant grassy woodland, wooded watercourses, and wetlands. On the tropical and subtropical eastern coast, it nests in remnant tall, open Eucalypt woodland near wetlands, in areas of extensive sugarcane fields, and in grazing paddocks. In the tropical north, it breeds on wooded river floodplains. These falcons select vacant stick nests in the tallest living trees available, typically in emergent Eucalypts in the lower parts of open, flat to undulating landscapes, such as riparian woodland, the footslopes of valleys, and near wetlands. Within ~100 m of the nest tree there are typically dead or dead-topped tree(s), used by the adults and fledglings as perches and food-transfer sites. Stick nests on the top of electricity pylons or on windmill platforms in treeless landscapes are also occasionally used (1, 3; see Nest Site).

There are no studies of home range or habitat use by marked birds or telemetry, but known adults foraging 4–6 km from the nest suggest a breeding home range of at least 50 km2, perhaps up to 100 km2 (3; see Population Spatial Metrics).

Habitat in Nonbreeding Range

Nonbreeding Black Falcons occur in the same habitats and regions as breeding pairs. In addition, from late spring to autumn and winter (November to May or even to July/August), nonbreeding individuals visit open woodland, grassland, pasture, cropland, wetland margins, and urban fringes on the temperate southeastern tablelands above 1,000 m (5, 3; SJSD). In southwestern Australia, apparently vagrant Black Falcons are thought to visit open and lightly wooded plains, the agricultural belt, and urban hinterland, much the same areas they inhabit in the southeast.

Recommended Citation

Debus, S. (2023). Black Falcon (Falco subniger), version 2.0. In Birds of the World (S. M. Billerman, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.blafal1.02