Barred Forest Falcon, Micrastur ruficollis

The Barred Forest Falcon (Micrastur ruficollis) is a bird of prey species in the Falconidae family including falcons, caracaras and their relatives. They occur throughout most of tropical and subtropical Latin America, except the Pacific coast off of South America, Northern and western Mexico and the Antilles. Most of the adult subspecies are usually dark grey, with a white tipped tail that has three to six narrow white bars and a pale grey throat shading up into the dark grey head. The under parts including the under-wing areas are white, barred with black or dark grey. One subspecies, zonothorax from East Andean foothills, is polymorphic, and occurs in a brown color, where the head, chest and upperparts are brown instead of grey.

Barred Forest Falcons mainly use mature upland forest. In Central America, the Falcons are usually limited to mature tropical forests. However, in South America, the Falcon lives in other kinds of forests and woodlands. For example, in Acre, Brazil, the Falcon is said to prefer disturbed forest types, including bamboo and other drier forest on rocky outcrops. But the Barred Forest Falcon is generally a bird that avoids places with pronounced human influence.

The Barred Forest Falcon is rare on the Colombian Cordillera Oriental eastern slope, where it was recorded in primary and old secondary forests, at an altitude between 3,000-4,900 ft. (1,000-1,500 m) ASL and first encountered in the Serrania de las Quinchas in 2000/2001. These mountains are dominated by trees like Melastomaceae and trees are usually overgrown with epiphytes and hemi epiphytes like Coussapoa.

The Barred Forest Falcon species usually feeds on small birds, mammals like rodents, marsupials and squamates. Similar to Accipiter hawks, they often hunt by sitting silently on branches and waiting for their prey to appear. When the Falcon has spotted their prey, they quickly ambush them, attempting to catch them with a brief, flying pursuit. However, the falcons also use other forms of hunting, such as chasing them on foot, following army ant swarms and acoustical luring of birds by means of “facial disc”. This species has also been recorded to steal animals from traps or cages.

Forest-Falcons lay their two or three white eggs in cavities in trees, instead of building a nest. Laying happens mainly late in the dry season and hatching takes place at the onset of the rainy season, a time of increased prey abundance. Eggs hatch 33-35 days after being laid, and nestlings fledge 35-44 days after hatching. Presumably achieving independence, fledglings disperse from their parents’ territory within four to seven weeks after fledging. There is high mate fidelity within the Barred Forest Falcons as well.

Image Caption: A Barred Forest Falcon in Parque Estadual da Serra da Cantareira, São Paulo, Brazil. Credit: Dario Sanches/Wikipedia  (CC BY-SA 2.0)