One of the last bird species in Europe to be discovered by science, and noted for its late breeding season and unusual feeding habits (6), Eleonora’s falcon is a fairly large and slender falcon, with long, narrow wings and a relatively long, rounded tail (3). The species occurs in two quite different colour morphs, a light and a dark form. Around 30 percent of both males and females belong to the dark form and 70 percent to the light form (7). The less common dark form is dark brown to slate black all over, often with a cream throat, and sometimes a reddish tinge on the lower underparts. Faint grey to buff bars can usually be seen on the tail when the bird is seen at a close distance. In contrast, the light form is dark only on the back, with white or cream cheeks and throat, a dark ‘moustache’ stripe on the face, and buff underparts, which become more reddish lower down, with black streaks (2) (3) (6) (8). The vent is usually plain, and the greyish tail may have reddish-brown bars, with a dark tip (3). The degree of streaking, and of shading from buff to reddish-brown on the belly, varies between individuals, and intermediates between the dark and light forms also rarely occur (2) (6). In flight, Eleonora’s falcon can be distinguished from other, similar falcon species by the dark underwing-coverts, which contrast with paler flight feathers (2) (6) (8).
Slightly larger than the male, the female Eleonora’s falcon is otherwise similar in appearance, though may be slightly browner in the dark form and have less pronounced colour contrast in the light form (3). In both forms, the female also has pale blue facial skin, rather than lemon yellow as in the male (3) (6). All juveniles have ochre feather tips, but 2 percent have an overall dark appearance like the adult form, whilst 28 percent only become dark at the first moult, when one year old. So, 98 percent of juveniles resemble the light form of the adult, but are browner and paler, with barring on the underwing, and more distinct bars on the flight feathers and tail feathers (2) (3) (6) (7) (8). The most common call of Eleonora’s falcon is a harsh keya, extended into kje-kje-kje-kjah (8).
- Faucon d'Eléonore.
- Length: 36 - 42 cm (2) (3)
- Wingspan: 84 - 105 cm (2) (3)
- Male weight: 295 - 370 g (4)
- Female weight: 335 - 460 g (4)