Eleonora's Falcon (Falco eleonorae)
Eleonora's Falcon, Xerocampos, Crete, October 2002 - click for larger image Xerocampos, Crete
October 2002

Eleonora's Falcon breeds on uninhabited rocky islands in the Mediterranean and off coastal north-west Africa and winter almost exclusively in Madagascar.

Eleonora's Falcon, Xerocampos, Crete, October 2002 - click for larger image From around mid-October, all the birds, including those nesting as far to the west as the Canary Islands, move to the eastern Mediterranean and then south through Suez and the Red Sea, arriving in Madagascar in late November. This is a distance of over 10,000 kms for the Canary Islands population. They return along the reverse route starting in March but they breed very late from mid-July to September so that hatching begins late August.
The reason for this late breeding is so that the nestlings are being fed at the time of the main bird migrations from Europe to Africa. This is when the diet of both adults and nestlings is made up almost exclusively of small birds. Because the breeding season is so late juveniles have to start their long migration journey a mere two weeks after fledging.

Eleonora's Falcon is a medium to large falcon with long, narrow wings and a long tail. While searching for prey, it spends a lot of time gliding on flat wings. From below, note the rufous on the underbody and the contrast between the dark grey underwing coverts and the pale grey of the flight feathers as well as the white cheeks and dark moustachial stripe.

Eleonora was the Sardinian heroine, Giudicessa Eleonora d'Arborea (1350 - 1404), who fought for independence from Aragon and made laws protecting nesting birds of prey (see Jobling)

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