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Eleonora's Falcon - BirdForum Opus

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Photo © by Duke Leto
Lesvos, Greece, May 2011
Falco eleonorae


36-42cm (13.25-16.5 ins)
There are pale and dark morphs, with some intermediate forms
Pale Morph

  • Blackish head and moustache
  • Throat and neck whitish
  • Black-streaked reddish underparts
Pale morph
Photo © by Roy C
S'Alburfera, Mallorca, Spain, May 2010

Dark Morph

  • Brownish-grey (can look black)
  • Underwing is two-toned darker on the coverts

Male vs Female

  • Cere and eye-ring are blue in females and yellow in males


  • Upperparts greyish with buff feather edges
  • Pale barred underwing coverts
  • Underparts are buff with fine streaks

Similar Species

  • Peregrine Falcon is about the same size, though the female at about 50 cm (19.75 ins) is a little larger. Upperparts are bluish-grey or even black, not brownish. Underparts are white with black horizontal markings, not vertical. Peregrine is also a much stockier bird and has a shorter tail.
  • Eurasian Hobby is smaller at only 28-36 cm (11-13.25 ins), although it does have red thighs and undertail coverts, which could be confused with the pale morph Eleonora's. Upperparts are slate-grey, not brownish.
  • For dark morph birds, also compare with Red-footed Falcon and Sooty Falcon, which are both smaller birds. Red-footed Falcon also differs in having red Cere, eye-ring and legs. Sooty Falcon is much paler and more grey than dark morph Eleonora's.


Dark morph
Photo © by Momo
Voni, Crete, Greece, May 2008

Europe and Africa: As a breeding bird confined to the Western Palearctic, mainly in the Mediterranean, especially Greece, with a few colonies in the Atlantic. Most breeding colonies are found in islands, or at least on the coast, more or less unknown as a breeding bird inland. The world population is thought to be around 4-5000 pairs. Outside the Mediterranean breeds on a few islets north of Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, where declining, and at two colonies on the coast of Morocco, one at Mogador Island off Essaouira. In Spain breeds on the Balearics, where increasing, and elsewhere. There are colonies on the west coast of Italy and on islets off Sicily but the majority of Italian birds are on Sardinia. Small numbers breed in one or two colonies in the Adriatic, notably on the Tremiti Islands off Italy and on islands off Croatia. The Greek islands hold more than half the world population with most colonies on the Cyclades and on and around Crete and smaller numbers on Limnos and the Sporades. There are also small numbers on Turkish islands and three colonies on Cyprus. In Mediterranean North Africa there are colonies in Algeria on the Iles Habibas, on an islet near Skikda and on the mainland coast of Grande Kabylie.

Migration: The Eleonora's Falcon is a long distance migrant, spending northern winters in Madagascar. Some stragglers are found on northern and eastern coasts of Africa and on Indian Ocean islands between December and March. Vagrants have been recorded in Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa. Most texts will indicate that migration passes through the Red Sea and the Middle East and that may still be true of birds breeding in the eastern Mediterranean; however, it seems that western Mediterranean birds migrate somewhat straight south over the Sahara until they hit tropical Africa, where the direction shifts to east to south-east1. Spring migration of the western Mediterranean bird go from Madagascar directly to Somalia (non stop over the Indian Ocean) and from there across Africa to their breeding grounds.


Plumage variations of Eleonora's Falcon
Click on image for larger version
Artwork © by spizaetos

Considered to be of Least Concern.


This is a monotypic species[2].


Breeds in colonies on rocky cliffs of uninhabited islands or remote and undisturbed mainland coasts. Usually seen hunting over the sea but also over marshes and freshwater lakes.



Their diet consists of small birds during the autumn migration period, and mainly large flying insects in winter and outside of the migration period.


This is a late-summer breeder (mid July-August) that feeds its young on autumn migrating passerines. The nest site is usually on rock ledges or in a hole, sometimes in a crevice or under a bush on the ground. There are usually 2 or 3 eggs; incubation takes 28-33 days; fledging takes place at about 28-37 days.


Their main call is a grating kyeh kyeh kyeh kyah.


  1. Thread in Birdforum discussing results of a satellite/radio tagging experiment of Spanish birds.
  2. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2017. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2017, with updates to August 2017. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  3. Birdwatchers Pocket Guide ISBN 1-85732-804-3
  4. Collins Field Guide 5th Edition
  5. Collins Bird Guide ISBN 0 00 219728 6
  6. Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive (retrieved August 2014)
  7. BirdLife International

Recommended Citation

External Links

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