Amur Falcons – South Africa

As regular readers of this site know, I am a huge fan of raptors. Here in South Africa, I have been able to see quite a few species of raptors, and perhaps my favorite at the moment is the beautiful Eastern Red-footed Falcon (Falco amurensis), also known as the Amur Falcon.

Amur Falcon- female

This species is about the size of a Merlin, but is even more stunning! The female of the species has a slate-colored back and a heavily-spotted underside. The male has a slate-blue back and a solid, slate-colored breast. Both sexes show an orange-ish bill and eye-ring, and of course, both male and female, show bright reddish feet! This species is a summer visitor to southern Africa from its breeding grounds in northern and eastern Asia. Throughout the day in most grassland habitats you can see loads of these falcons hover-hunting for grasshoppers and other large insects.

Amur Falcon- female

Amur Falcon- female

A habit commonly shown in the small falcons of southern Africa is communal roosting. The Amur Falcon is no exception and I see large roosts on a near-daily basis. Most times the falcons choose to roost on telephone poles and wires as is shown below.

Amur Falcon

While leaving Mkambati Nature Reserve two weeks ago, I stopped to quickly photograph a roost of these falcons, and noticed that one of them looked a bit different; it had a rufous breast rather than the spotted or slate-colored breast of an Amur Falcon. This distinction made it a Red-footed Falcon (Falco vespertinus, formerly Western Red-footed Falcon); a near-threatened and uncommon summer visitor to southern Africa and extremely rare (perhaps never before seen) in the Eastern Cape Province! This Red-footed Falcon has been the rarest of the southern African birds I have seen so far on my trip.

Female Red-footed Falcon (center) between two female Amur Falcons.

All photos taken by and copyright Alex Lamoreaux.