SPECIES

Black Falcon Falco subniger Scientific name definitions

Stephen Debus
Version: 2.0 — Published March 17, 2023

Photos from this Account

Black Falcon.
Black Falcon.

Black Falcon is distinguished from dark Brown Falcons by its more uniformly dark plumage, white chin, minimal to no underwing and undertail barring, more powerful "square" shoulders, smaller head, short legs hidden by long thigh feathers, and larger feet.

Possible confusion species: Brown Falcon (Falco berigora).

Darkest Brown Falcons have conspicuous and broader pale barring in the wings and tail, producing a distinctly two-toned underwing; ; they also perch more upright with a "pot-bellied" profile on long legs.

Possible confusion species: Brown Falcon (Falco berigora).

In flight Brown Falcon is distinguished by its heavy "overarm" and sometimes erratic flight action, blunt wingtips, two-toned (barred) underwings, rounded and often fanned tail, toes reaching the tips of the undertail coverts, and wings raised in a dihedral when soaring and gliding.

Black Falcon.
Possible confusion species: Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus).

Juvenile Peregrine Falcon (subspecies macropus) is distinctly more chunky in build than the sleek Black Falcon.

Possible confusion species: Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus).

Juvenile Peregrine Falcon (subspecies macropus) is buff bellow, streaked blackish brown.

Black Falcon.
Possible confusion species: Black Kite (Milvus migrans).

Black Kite (subspecies affinis) has a pale carpal bar, "fingered" primaries in flight, forked tail, barred wings and tail, and yellow bare parts.

Possible confusion species: Black Kite (Milvus migrans).

Black Kite (subspecies affinis) showing forked tail, and yellow bare parts.

Black Falcon.
Possible confusion species: Swamp Harrier (Circus approximans).

Juvenile Swamp Harrier has conspicuously long yellow legs, a pale rump, and blunt wings held in a dihedral when gliding.

Possible confusion species: Swamp Harrier (Circus approximans).

Juvenile Swamp Harrier showing pale rump.

Juveniles ventral view.

Juveniles are overall dark sooty or slaty brown with rufous fringes to the dorsal feathers and a pale tail tip, and sometimes pale fringes to the ventral feathers.

Juvenile dorsal view.
Two juveniles (left) and two adults (right).
Adult lateral view.

Sooty black to dark chocolate-brown; pale highlights in adult plumage, such as a pale forehead and cheeks, extensive pale throat, speckling on the breast, barring in the primaries and rectrices, speckling on the greater underwing coverts, and the width of the pale bars in the undertail coverts, increase up to at least 5 yr.

Adult ventral view.
Adult lateral view.
Two birds in their habitat; Queensland, Australia.
Bird in its habitat; Victoria, Australia.
Bird flying over reedbeds; Victoria, Australia.
Black Falcon robbing prey from Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus axillaris).
Bird with Fairy Martin (Petrochelidon ariel).
Falcon feeding on a rat.
Falcon feeding on a bird.
Falcon feeding on a bird.
Black Falcon chasing a Whistling Kite (Haliastur sphenurus).
Adult close to its nest.
Adult and downy chicks at nest; August, Queensland, Australia.
Two grown chicks; September, Queensland, Australia.
Adults and fledglings; October, Victoria, Australia.
Two nestlings on nest; general view.
Adult with two downy chicks.
Chicks with fully developed plumage.

Macaulay Library Photos for Black Falcon

Top-rated photos submitted to the Macaulay Library via eBird. Note: Our content editors have not confirmed the species identification for these photos.

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