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African Pygmy Falcon

Scientific Name: Polihierax semitorquatus

Conservation Status:

Least Concern IUCN Red List


African pygmy falcons are among the smallest raptors at just eight inches long. Perched on high poles or branches of dead trees, pygmy falcons use their keen eyesight to scan the horizon for prey such as snakes, lizards, rodents, and birds. They then dart through the air in quick bursts of speed, swooping down on their targets. Their feet have three toes facing forward and one toe facing backward, which enables them to pounce on their prey and hold their meal with their feet while they fly. Hooked beaks allow them to rip into flesh. They prefer to hunt in the morning or the evening avoiding the midday heat.

African pygmy falcons do not build their own nests. Instead, they pirate up to 25 percent of the nest space from social weaver birds. African pygmy falcons are good neighbors, though! They leave the weaver birds alone and will catch and kill snakes that attempt to invade the nests. African pygmy falcons live alone, in pairs, or in small family groups.


Native to Sudan and other parts of east Africa, pygmy falcons prefer open, semi-arid areas with sparse groundcover and scattered trees.


These carnivorous birds eat large insects, other arthropods, snakes, lizards, small rodents, and birds.


Adult African pygmy falcons reach body lengths of eight inches and weigh between 1.9 and 2.7 ounces. They typically live between 10 and 15 years.

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