Brown Falcon preys upon Australian Hobby(?)

To: "Canberrabirds" <>
Subject: Brown Falcon preys upon Australian Hobby(?)
From: "John Layton" <>
Date: Thu, 19 Oct 2006 20:17:30 +1000

At 1 pm on 17 October 2006, I was birdwatching near the viewing platform at Shepherds Lookout, when I saw a Brown Falcon perched atop a dead Casaurina about 30 m away. As I crept towards it, the falcon took wing and I noticed it was carrying a bird in its talons.

In the few seconds I had the airborne falcon in the field of view of my binoculars, the prey’s dorsal areas appeared to be grey and its drooping wings pointed. As the prey was gripped by the breast, I didn’t glimpse the ventral plumage. However, what I saw of it, particularly the pointed wings, caused me think of a small raptor – most likely an Australian Hobby.

The Brown Falcon landed some100 m away on a bare branch jutting out from a Yellow Box about 8 m above the ground. I stalked it for 10 minutes until, 30 m away, I stopped to watch. The falcon was plucking its prey, pausing every few seconds, looking up and swiveling its head from side to side.

The prey’s downy breast feathers plumed away like smoke on the breeze. Nonetheless, I was able to discern that the breast appeared rufous-brown, which reinforced my guess that it might have been a hobby. After five minutes, I decided to get closer but, as I moved, the falcon took wing carrying its prey. Fifty metres later it dropped its prey into a paddock and continued on, disappearing down into the river valley.

When the falcon didn’t return after fifteen minutes, I headed to where I thought the prey had been dropped. "Serendipity!" I thought, "this will be the proof of the pudding." However, contretemps countered serendipity – I couldn’t locate the stupid thing! I quartered some 2500 m2 and didn’t find so much as a feather.

As there’s a Peregrine Falcons’ eerie in the area, I also considered the prey species might have been a fledgling peregrine. I suppose some early-hatched peregrine fledglings could be abroad as early as mid-October. Whether a Brown Falcon would be feisty/foolhardy enough to hunt peregrine fledglings if the parents were in the vicinity is another question. And it just occurred to me: as I reckoned the prey species was no bigger than a hobby, perhaps a fledgling peregrine would have appeared noticeably larger. S’pose I should check the books but am too lazy/tired.

Earlier, I looked up Brown Falcons in HANZAB and, under prey, the only mention of raptors I noticed is a Black-shouldered Kite.

John Layton.

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