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Red-headed or desert falcon, shahin (Falco peregrinus babylonicus)

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November 4, 2019

Synonyms: red-headed falcon, desert falcon, Falco babylonicus.

Taxonomy. Previously considered a subspecies of peregrine Falco peregrinus babylonicus. Separation of the shahin into a separate species did not solve taxonomic problems. The status of shahinas living in the southern regions of Central Asia is not completely clear; these birds are considered to be Falco pelegrinoides babylonicus. Birds nesting in the northeast of the region have transitional characters between Falco pelegrinoides babylonicus and Falco peregrinus peregrinus and most suitable for the description of the unrecognized Falco peregrinus gobicus.

Lifestyle poorly studied due to the rarity of the species. Preferred habitats are mountainous and foothill areas, mostly open, with rocky sites, in the Tien Shan, mainly in the belt of spruce forest.

Nests are arranged on ledges and in niches of rocks or cliffs. In the clutch there are eggs of the usual color for falcons - with a buffy background and a thick small red-brown speck. Apparently, only a female incubates, near Chicks are covered with white or light gray fluff, begin to fly at the age of about 5 weeks.

The main prey is small and medium-sized birds: waders, passerines, ducks, partridges, grouse, swifts. They live in mountains settled down or undertake short-term movements, migrating from snow-capped mountains to low mountains or to plains to places of bird accumulation during migrations and wintering, they can visit city elevators. Some birds fly south - to Nepal and India. Reproduction begins, presumably, at the earliest age - at an incomplete one-year age, that is, in a calendar year.

The species is listed in the Red Books of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

ShahinFalco pelegrinoides

RED-HEAD BALCON

The different names of this bird together make up its rather complete description. The name “shahin” refers to the history of falconry, “red-headed” - describes the color, but “deserted”, of course, defines habitats.

Interestingly, this type of falcon is not called deservedly by the red-headed one: there are species among falcons that can boast a brighter red head, for example, the Mediterranean falcon. The outfit of an elegant shahin corresponds to the nobleness of its silhouette - nothing bright: light, smoky-gray plumage with a light brownish transverse pattern (often only between the shoulder blades and shoulders), feathers on the forehead, crown, neck, reddish-red, also muted shades. In the same reddish color, the upper feathers are bordered and the lower ones are painted. A more pronounced reddishness of fresh plumage is observed only in young birds, which are also distinguished by a striated tail with a bluish bloom and narrower longitudinal stripes on the belly. Adult birds and young people have so-called mustaches, but they are noticeably smaller among young birds.

Spread

Shahin, or the red-headed peregrine falcon, a desert falcon (Falco pelegrinoides) distributed in deserts and dry foothills (up to 1500 m) of northern Africa, the Middle East, the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Central Asia, in the mountains and foothills of the south and southeast of Kazakhstan from Talas Alatau to Tarbagatai or even Southern Altai is also found in the Issyk-Kul basin especially during migration and wintering. On migration and wintering occurs more widely, gravitating to river valleys and human settlements in the foothill zone.

In appearance and behavior, this falcon resembles a peregrine falcon, but is slightly smaller, the top is lighter, the bottom is buffy with a less developed pattern, there are bright red spots on the top and back of the head. The body length of this bird ranges from 33 to 40 cm, and the females are larger than males.

Nests shahin on the rocks, leads a sedentary lifestyle. A variety of birds prevail in his diet: larks, stoves, hazel grouse, desert partridges and others. He usually hunts in open spaces. Ecology, nesting biology, and the behavior of the desert falcon are similar to peregrine falcons. They also catch prey in the air, often at high speed.

DESERT FALCON

Indeed, shahin prefer the desert spaces of Central and Central Asia. Breeds in Turkmenistan, Iran, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and North Africa. Nests are arranged on the eaves of rocks or in clay cliffs of hills, always in inaccessible places. From about August to March, the birds stay on the plains, where in the summer they make only feeding flights.

CHANGE OF GENERATIONS

Matrimonial games and mating take place at the very beginning of April, and by the beginning of May the female Shahina is ready to begin laying. Hatching begins with the second egg, and in total there are up to three. As a rule, there are two chicks in a brood, less often one and, in exceptional cases, three. By mid-June, the chicks begin to fledge, a month later they already learn to fly, and by mid-August they become completely independent. Parents take care of their grown children for quite some time, teaching them the wisdom of hunting, and then, when the young people nevertheless leave them, they remain together - the shahins keep pairs all year. If young falcons do not fall prey to more powerful predators - and this is an eagle owl, a goshawk, a golden eagle, then next spring they themselves will breed.

BET HUNTING

The characteristic way of hunting the shahin, as well as some other types of birds of prey in nature, is called the bet. It consists in a steep dive on a victim from a great height. At this moment, the flight speed of the falcon can exceed 90 m / s!

It is clear that, falling upon the victim at such a speed, the falcon should not collide with it, so as not to crash. It should be borne in mind that often the weight of the prey is close to the weight of the attacking falcon, and sometimes even exceeds it (however, the shahins are not disdain and quite small birds). The predator also cannot grab the victim with its paws: it is possible, firstly, to damage the paws, and secondly, to lose flight control. What does the falcon do? He strikes the bird only with the claws of the back fingers, on a tangent, but at such a speed this is enough for the victim to be seriously injured or simply to fall into an uncontrollable fall. After the attack, the falcon slows down, turns around and picks up somersault prey in the air on the fly, in extreme cases, it’s enough that it has already fallen to the ground.

Predator LUNCH

The bent claws of the falcon allow it to better cling to the prey in order to bring it to a secluded place where you can safely dine. Sometimes with a small victim, captured in the air, the falcon straightens out on the fly. Which of the birds gets a fast-moving predator for lunch? In the nesting period, these are cupcakes, bee-eater, hazel grouse, gray pigeons, jackdaws, crested larks, white-bellied swifts and even sparrows. The rest of the time, the diet of the shahin includes white-bellied sandgrouses, streptos, teal-whistles, gray pigeons, heaters, crested, white-winged and field larks. There have been cases when the shahins, flying out to hunt in the late evening, attacked bats, but this is not at all typical behavior.

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