Fun Pygmy Falcon Facts For Kids

Moumita Dutta
Oct 20, 2022 By Moumita Dutta
Originally Published on Aug 05, 2021
Edited by Katherine Cook
Fact-checked by Diya Patel
Pygmy falcon facts are very interesting to learn.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 8.0 Min

The pygmy falcon, Polihierax semitorquatus, more commonly known as the African pygmy falcon are small birds of prey found in Africa. They are very small in size and often perch on high poles and branches of dead trees.

They have very keen eyesight which they use to identify and prey on small animals and mammals, reptiles, and insects. In addition to having sharp eyesight, they are also able to achieve quick bursts of speed during flight and swoop down on the ground and catch their target.

These birds avoid the midday heat and are most active and prefer to hunt during the morning and the evening.

African pygmy falcons, do not build their own nest, rather, they occupy the nest of sociable weavers or white-headed buffalo weavers, which look like round ornaments hanging from trees. If you want to learn more interesting facts about this bird, then read on.

If you liked reading about this small bird, then you may also enjoy getting familiar with facts about merganser and sea eagle.

Pygmy Falcon Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a pygmy falcon?

An African pygmy falcon is a non-migratory flight bird.

What class of animal does a pygmy falcon belong to?

The African pygmy falcon, Polihierax semitorquatus, belongs to the class Aves.

How many pygmy falcons are there in the world?

African pygmy falcons, Polihierax semitorquatus, have been known to breed and exist in an area of  4,883,978 sq m (7,860,000 sq km). Their estimated population in this range is around one million.

Where does a pygmy falcon live?

An African pygmy falcon is found in the northeast and southwest of Africa. In the northeast, areas include Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Tanzania, while in the southwest they can be found in Namibia, Botswana, Angola, and Cape Province.

What is a pygmy falcon's habitat?

African pygmy falcons' habitat consists of open, arid to semiarid areas, which have sparse ground cover and scattered trees.  They prefer areas with limited vegetation such as acacia and thornbush. They mainly reside in areas where sociable weavers or white-headed buffalo weavers reside.

Who do pygmy falcons live with?

An African pygmy falcon will live in the nest of a sociable weaver, or white-headed buffalo weaver and catch predators like snakes that try to invade the nest. They are very good neighbors and can be found in pairs, all alone, or in small family groups.

How long does a pygmy falcon live?

An African pygmy falcon, Polihierax semitorquatus, lives for an average of six to either years. They have been known to live for a maximum period of 20 years.

How do they reproduce?

The African pygmy falcon, Polihierax semitorquatus, has very unique rituals of pre-mating courtship. The birds of this species will wag their tail, bob their head, and make calls when they have to mate.

Females will raise their tail feathers and indicate to the male birds that they are ready for mating.

The African pygmy falcon is usually monogamous, but it has also been known to be polyandrous on occasions. African pygmy falcons only breed once a year, but sometimes produce two broods in a year, when the conditions are favorable.

At the beginning of the breeding season, the parents will choose a chamber for nesting and reside there together. The female of this species does most of the incubating but the males help during incubation by bringing food to the female and incubating when the females are feeding.

After the eggs hatch the females tend to the young and the males hunt for food. After the chicks have become fully-fledged with wings, the females also start hunting.

African pygmy falcons breed seasonally, from June to December in northeastern Africa, and from August to March in southwestern Africa.

The female lays two to four eggs which incubate for a period of 28 to 30 days. The hatchlings become fully-fledged in around 27 to 40 days and reach sexual maturity at about one year.

What is their conservation status?

African pygmy falcons are currently thriving and are a common resident in their area. They are in no way endangered. Their conservation status has been listed as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Pygmy Falcon Fun Facts

What do pygmy falcons look like?

The male and female birds of this species are distinguishable from each other. The males have full gray backs along with the upper part of the head and a full white front, bottom, and face.

The females have a full gray top and are full white below including the face and the head, but can be distinguished from the male because of the presence of a white neck ring and a deep chestnut back.

The brown back of the female of this species makes it more colorful than the male. The African pygmy falcon, Polihierax semitorquatus, has big eyes that help it to locate its prey on the ground and has a depression in the retina, known as 'fovea', which helps to magnify images.

African pygmy falcons have sharp and hooked beaks which help them to tear flesh.

The base of the beak is orange in color while the beak itself is gray. The toes of the African pygmy falcons are very strong and have curved, sharp talons which they use to hunt and grip their victims.

Three toes face forward while one toe faces backward which makes it easier for them to hold their prey and crush them. The long, broad, barred tail of this species consists of black flight feathers with white spots.

Their tails act as both steers while diving for prey and brakes while landing.

A newly hatched African pygmy falcon is white in color and has paler feet compared to its adult counterparts. It has a reddish or brownish back and neck with a white abdomen, face, and breast.

A pygmy falcon is the smallest raptor in the continent of Africa

How cute are they?

Although they are very vicious birds of prey, an African pygmy falcon is a very cute creature. Their gray flight feathers and big round eyes make them look very attractive and appealing.

How do they communicate?

The African pygmy falcon doesn't usually communicate outside its breeding and nesting season. During the breeding season, the birds of this species sing songs to attract possible mates.

There are some physical communications made during courtship and mating by both the sexes of this species, like the female birds crouch and raise their tails and the males make some movements during courtship. The sounds made by the birds of this species during the breeding season include 'tsip-tsip', 'kiki-kik', 'twee-twee-twip', and a 'kirrrrr-kirrrrr-kirrrrr' during mating.

The sound made by the young is basically a  'ki-ki-ki'. The sounds made by these birds are thin, squeaky, high in pitch, and soft.

How big is a pygmy falcon?

An African pygmy falcon is a pint-sized predator. It can be compared to the size of a shrike but is a little chunkier. The wingspan of these birds is 14.5 in (37 cm) and they are 8 in (20 cm) long.

How fast can a pygmy falcon fly?

A pygmy falcon bird is one of the fastest animals in the kingdom. It flies at 40-60 mph (64-96 kph) and can go as fast as 200 mph (322 kph) while diving for prey.

How much does a pygmy falcon weigh?

The average weight of pygmy falcon is very low at around 2-3 oz (42-85 g).

What are their male and female names of the species?

The male and female name of the pygmy falcon is the same, both are classified as 'P. semitorquatus'.

What would you call a baby pygmy falcon?

Just like the hatchlings of other birds, the baby birds of this species are also known as 'chicks'.

What do they eat?

An African pygmy falcon diet mainly consists of lizards and insects. Small animals, reptiles, and mammals also fall prey to a pygmy falcon hunting and constitute their meal, but these birds are mainly fond of lizards as their meal which are also very crucial for the survival of the young.

Small birds and rodents also form part of their meals. While inhabiting the nest of a sociable weaver or a white-headed buffalo weaver, they sometimes also prey on the weavers to feed their young.

Are they aggressive?

The African pygmy falcon is one of the most powerful predators in the animal kingdom. They are aggressive hunters and are courageous defenders of their eggs, nests, and habitat. They are even more aggressive while nesting and mating.

Would they make a good pet?

No, pygmy falcons would not make a good pet as they are predators. In fact, in the United States it is illegal to have a pygmy falcon as a pet.

Did you know...

The hatching of pygmy falcon eggs is asynchronous. The eggs hatch over a period of days. The difference between the first and last egg hatching can be as long as 14 days. This means that the chicks are all different sizes.

Pygmy falcons are diurnal birds of prey, which means that they are most active during the day.

They are also known as 'nest pirates' because of their habit to nest in the nests of weavers. Even though they are called 'pirates', they are actually very cooperative and protect the weavers from predators

The polyandrous characteristic of pygmy falcons may indicate the shortage of nesting sites.

Pygmy falcons can sometimes be confused with Peregrine falcons because of their appearance and color pattern, but they are actually different. Peregrine falcons can only be found in North America, while pygmy falcons are only found in Africa.

Is the pygmy falcon the smallest raptor in Africa?

Pygmy falcons are the smallest raptors found in the continent of Africa.

How are pygmy falcons different to most other raptors?

Unlike most other raptors, these tiny predators of Africa exhibit sexual dimorphism. Males and females have different markings which make them distinguishable. The females can easily be differentiated from the male due to their deep brown backs. The brown, gray, and white combination of colors on the female makes it look more beautiful than the male.

Further, pygmy falcons are one of the only raptors who are nest pirates by nature, using weavers' nests to mate and breed rather than building any of their own.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds including vulture, or California condor.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our Pygmy falcon coloring pages.

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Written by Moumita Dutta

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

Moumita Dutta picture

Moumita DuttaBachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

A content writer and editor with a passion for sports, Moumita has honed her skills in producing compelling match reports and stories about sporting heroes. She holds a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management, Calcutta University, alongside a postgraduate diploma in Sports Management.

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Fact-checked by Diya Patel

Bachelor of Science specializing in in Computer Science

Diya Patel picture

Diya PatelBachelor of Science specializing in in Computer Science

A member of Kidadl's fact-checking team, Diya is currently pursuing a degree in Computer Science from Ahmedabad University with an interest in exploring other fields. As part of her degree, she has taken classes in communications and writing to expand her knowledge and skills.

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