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African Pygmy-falcon

African Pygmy-falcon
Photo Information
Copyright: Peter van Zoest (PeterZ) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5137 W: 166 N: 13121] (49139)
Genre: Animals
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2008-08-22
Categories: Birds
Camera: Nikon D300, AF Nikkor 70-300mm f4-5.6 G, Digital RAW
Exposure: f/10.0, 1/640 seconds
More Photo Info: [view]
Photo Version: Original Version
Theme(s): The predator with the Prey 2, CeltickRanger's favorite Bird of Prey photos 2 [view contributor(s)]
Date Submitted: 2008-10-07 9:15
Viewed: 5944
Points: 48
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
Hello friends,
Another new one for TN, the African Pygmy-falcon.
We were driving in a land cruiser on a small path, when I suddenly saw this Falcon. It was eating a lizard almost as big as the falcon itself.
The light conditions were not very good. But I hope you like it.

The African Pygmy-falcon (Polihierax semitorquatus) is a falcon that lives in eastern and southern Africa, the smallest raptor of the continent. As a small falcon, only 19 to 20 cm long, it preys on insects, small reptiles and even small mammals.

Adult African Pygmy-falcons are white below and on the face, grey above, the female having a chestnut back. There are white "eye spots" on the nape. Juveniles have a brown back, duller than adult females, and a rufous wash on the breast. The flight feathers of the wings are spotted black and white (more black above, more white below); the tail is barred black and white.
The flight is low and undulating. In size, pattern, and the habit of perching upright on an exposed branch or treetop, this species resembles some shrikes.

The call is "a high-pitched kikiKIK, repeated" (Kenya) or "a 'chip-chip' and a 'kik-kik-kik-kik'" (southern Africa).

Range, habitat, and population
The African Pygmy-falcon inhabits dry bush. The subspecies P. s. castanonotus occurs from Sudan to Somalia and south to Uganda and Tanzania; P. s. semitorquatus occurs from Angola to northern South Africa. This range is estimated to have an area of 2.7 million km2, and the total population is estimated to be between 100,000 and 1 million birds.

In Kenya, African Pygmy-falcon nest in White-headed Buffalo-weaver nests, and the ranges of the two birds coincide. In southern Africa, they are found around Red-billed Buffalo-weaver nests but predominantly nest in the vacant rooms of Sociable Weaver nests, which are large and multichambered—even if the Sociable Weavers still have an active colony in the nest. Despite being bird-eaters and bigger than Sociable Weavers, the Pygmy-falcons largely leave the latter alone, though they do occasionally catch and eat nestlings and even adults.

African Pygmy-falcons occasionally engage in polyandrous relationships, where there are more than two adults living together and tending nestlings. There are four potential reasons for this behavior: defense, co-operative polyandry, delayed dispersal of offspring, and thermoregulation (warmth). Corroboration for the last is that in winter African Pygmy-falcons nest further inside the nest of Sociable Weavers, where there is better insulation.

(Sources: Wikipedia and Birds of Africa, South of the Sahara by Ian Sinclair and Peter Ryan)

crs, Arjun, uleko, siggi, gracious, jaycee, nglen, Amadeo, techranger, jusninasirun, sandpiper2, ramthakur, cicindela, rousettus, horia, CeltickRanger has marked this note useful
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Critiques [Translate]

  • Great 
  • crs Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 469 W: 0 N: 922] (3551)
  • [2008-10-07 9:21]

Hello Peter,

You have captured a very good moment with the bird and its prey. Birds plumage and lizards pattern can be clearly seen.

Thank you for sharing,

  • Great 
  • Argus Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5038 W: 260 N: 15594] (50626)
  • [2008-10-07 10:00]

Hello Peter,
A fine capture of an African Pygmy Falcon dealing with its lizard prey. The technical qualities are excellent and even if the light was difficult you dealt with it well. The POV shows the features of this little raptor with fine detail.
TFS this fine image,

  • Great 
  • uleko Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3396 W: 172 N: 3310] (10940)
  • [2008-10-07 10:04]

Hello Peter,
What a well-timed capture of this beautiful bird of prey with its huge prey! I love its 'ringed' eye and the way it is stretching the wings. A beautiful bird indeed! Excellent focus and details and the light looks pretty good to me and the colours are beautiful.
Many thanks and regards, Ulla

  • Great 
  • siggi Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3097 W: 109 N: 12399] (52850)
  • [2008-10-07 10:18]

Hello Peter !
What a great capture you did ! Perfect composition, great moment, very good focus and sharpness ! Wonderful shot !
Regards Siggi

Hallo Peter,
Uploaden uiteindelijk toch gelukt, Peter.
Over je werk...
Waarschijnlijk was 't een tikkeltje onderbelicht. Altijd moeilijk deze roofvogels omdat je camera verkeerd meet.
Een stop overbelichten of spotmeting kunnen soelaas brengen.
De inhoud en het moment zijn heel goed. Deze kleine roofvogel
legt de lat wel erg hoog in terms of foodstuff...
Bedankt en groeten,

Hi Peter,
Wondeful capture, teh bird and ir\ts prey have perched at a photo unfriendly position but still you have captured wonderfully. TFS

Hello Peter,
Amazing image with the Falcon eating something almost the same size as him! much appreciated for your captured and shared indeed!
good closeness with great sharpness, good colour and details
well done

  • Great 
  • jaycee Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2454 W: 10 N: 8044] (25460)
  • [2008-10-07 11:07]

Hi Peter,

Congratulations on presenting the first Pygmy Falcon on TN. An amazing pose as he works on that big lizard. Excellent colors and details of the face, eye, wings and plummage. I love the wing draping behind the tree. The lighting conditions might not have been good but you did an excellent job working with what you had.


  • Great 
  • nglen Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2883 W: 30 N: 9683] (36145)
  • [2008-10-07 11:19]

Hi Peter. You were so lucky to have seen this from the car. Congrats on a first for TN. You must have got close to get this one with the lens. A good POV showing the bird with its meal. We can see the huge eye it has. well done TFS.

  • Great 
  • lousat Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 6595 W: 89 N: 15659] (65489)
  • [2008-10-07 11:55]

Hi Peter,i'm just back from the holidays and i'm happy to see again your fantastics ethiopians pics,a very great collection and this is a great example,a 1st class pic and excellents note too,thanks for share your work,Luciano

  • Great 
  • pvs Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1127 W: 254 N: 3161] (14464)
  • [2008-10-07 13:00]

Ha Peter,

Een fraaie opname van deze worstelende pygmee,een goede gedetaileerde opname van dit hoofdgerecht,groetjes


  • Great 
  • Amadeo Gold Star Critiquer [C: 168 W: 0 N: 755] (3323)
  • [2008-10-07 13:05]

Hola Peter, excelente momento, un buen documento. Un saludo

Great capture Peter... well seen. Very nice detail and composition... guess that lizard just wasn't fast enough... TFS


  • Great 
  • Adanac Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1273 W: 1 N: 6188] (21378)
  • [2008-10-07 19:33]

Hello Peter,
Love the action captured here Peter, colors and details are very good. What a great addition to your portfolio. Thank you for sharing.

Hello Peter. Congratulations on the new catch. Amazing size of the lizard with the falcon busy working at the top of this dead tree, TFS and best regards. Jusni

Hi Peter

Excellent shot of this pygmy falcon with his large take-away meal.
You did prety good really in poor light conditions. I like it.


Ciao Peter, great capture for you and for the bird, interesting composition, you take a great moment, very well done, ciao Silvio

Hi Peter,
What a special capture! I think that this is the first time I see this specie and it is a beautiful bird. The action captured is amazing, what a timing you had! I like the transparence of his wings. Well seen!

Happy with the opportunity to go back into your portfolio and admire this prize shot of a Falcon eating its prey, Peter.
This is another great image from your visit to Ethiopia.
Despite difficult light conditions, it is a fantastic action shot.
TFS and regards.

  • Great 
  • EOSF1 Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1393 W: 119 N: 5267] (23955)
  • [2008-10-11 10:10]

Hello Peter! Great job my friend, you caught it in the act! Great timing and very good technique, thanks!


Hello Peter,
So here we have 2 in 1 :) A falco and a lizard (unfortunatelly only one is still alive ;>). Nice documentary photo with nice colours and details.
TFS and have a nice weekend!

Hello Peter
great action shot for African Pygmy-falcon with food. Great composition and timing. eyes contact and focus very nice. bluish sky nicely contrasted. Thanks for sharing, well done

  • Great 
  • horia Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2158 W: 224 N: 4749] (16656)
  • [2008-11-01 1:39]

Hi Peter

I was looking at your older photos and i stumbled upon this gem. It's really something!
A splendid species of falcon - and one we get to see very little of here on TN - the Pygmy-falcon, shown from an excellent POV, with great details and...boy...at such an amazing timing!
I think i assumed that falcons eat lizards, too, but we usually see them catching smaller mammals or other birds in flight. This is why, your photo has an even greater value!

Bravo and TFS

Hello Peter

Even if I am writ tong my critic 7 or 8 years later,
once again congratulations for this new species on TN.

Great shot of this bird of prey eating its prey a lizard,
you was passing from the best place at the best moment
to witness and shoot in photo this wildlife scenery, TFS


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