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Sooty Falcon Falco concolor
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This species has been classified as Near Threatened because it is suspected to have a moderately small, declining population. Detailed surveys and robust monitoring are much desired, and would lead to a clarification of its status.

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: # _the_WP15.xls#.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

34cm. Medium-sized agile falcon with long narrow wings and long tail. Flight rapid and elastic with sudden swoops and dives but also soaring and gliding on flat wings. Adult Sooty-grey all over. On upperwings contrast between darker primary wing-coverts but entirely lacking contrast in underwings. Juvenile: Show pale tips to upperpart feathers and yellow-buff underparts with sooty-grey streaking. Throat, hindneck and cheeks all yellowish-buff. Similar spp. Size slightly larger than F. subbuteo, but smaller than F. eleonorae. Resembles dark morph F. eleonorae but with more prominent yellow cere, con-colourous underwings and jizz more similar to F. subbuteo. Juvenile even more similar, best seperated by stuctural differences and broad dark terminal band on undetail. Hints Often crespuscular.

Distribution and population
Falco concolor breeds discontinuously and highly locally from Libya, eastwards through Egypt to the Red Sea islands off Sudan, Djibouti and Ethiopia, islands and coasts of north-west and south-west Saudi Arabia and north-west Yemen, southern Israel, south Jordan and Bahrain, as well as islands in the Persian Gulf from Qatar to Oman, the United Arab Emirates and south-west Pakistan (Aspinall 1994); a few inland breeding records from Saudi Arabia show that its range extends to the interior of the region (Gaucher et al. 1988). Most of the population winters in Madagascar, but a small but unknown proportion winters in coastal Mozambique and eastern South Africa (south to southern Natal), and there is also limited over-wintering in the southern part of the breeding range. Estimating the total population has proved notoriously difficult, and the population may have been overestimated in the past. However, there are now thought to be no more than a few thousand wintering in Madagascar and a recent review of all Arabian census data, (which is reportedly surprisingly comprehensive for this species), and found that the total Arabian population is probably just below 500 breeding pairs (Jennings and Sadler 2006, F. Hawkins in litt. 2007). Given that the Arabian population is generally regarded as the largest within its range (perhaps half of the world population), the estimate from Madagascar may indeed prove to be accurate (Jennings and Sadler 2006). Anecdotal evidence from Madagascar indicates a decline, and this is mirrored by data from breeding colonies in the Middle East (Kavanagh and King 2003, F. Hawkins in litt. 2007, M. McGrady in litt. 2007); each of the latter when surveyed has shown a decline relative to previous survey results (McGrady and Nicoll 2008, Shah et al. 2008). Current estimates of the total populations range from 1,000-40,000 pairs, roughly equivalent to 2,000-80,000 mature individuals and 3,000-120,000 individuals in total (Nicoll et al. 2008). Clearly this estimate needs to be refined.

Population justification
It is very difficult to accurately estimate the population size, but breeding surveys and evidence from the non-breeding grounds (F. Hawkins in litt. 2007) suggest there may only be a few thousand; this is placed into the banded range 10,000-19,999 mature individuals pending new information. This equates to 15,000-29,999 individuals in total, rounded here to 15,000-30,000 individuals.

Trend justification
A slow or moderate and on-going population decline is suspected on the basis of fragmentary population figures and surveys.

It breeds colonially in hot, arid environments; on cliffs, small rocky islands and rugged desert mountains where its breeding is timed to coincide with the autumn migration of small birds on which it feeds. Its nest is a shallow depression dug into the ground (Gaucher et al. 1988). It is a migratory species, with birds arriving in their wintering grounds in Madagascar and south-east Africa from late October, and returning to breeding sites in April (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Migrants generally travel singly, or in pairs or small flocks (Brown et al. 1982, Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). In the non-breeding season it forages for large insects over grassland and open country with trees.

Most of its breeding colonies are inaccessible or in protected areas so it would appear to be declining due to pressures in wintering grounds or on migration. Still, human disturbance may be a factor in some areas, including Bahrain's Hawar Islands (Kavanagh and King 2008, McGrady and Nicoll 2008). Increased pesticide use has been suggested as a causal factor, but egg analysis indicates that it is at very low concentrations in these birds.

Conservation Actions Underway
A two-year pilot survey was conducted on the offshore islands of northern Oman during 2007-2008, including the marking of birds with PIT rings and gathering of blood samples and unhatched eggs (McGrady et al. 2008, 2009).Conservation Actions Proposed
Monitor a number of breeding colonies annually to assess trends. Research the ecology of non-breeding and migrating birds to assess potential threatening processes. Oppose developments which would encroach on breeding colonies. Restrict access to important breeding colonies. Conduct surveys, to locate further breeding colonies and determine the proportion of birds that winter outside Madagascar. Establish annual monitoring at the important sites on the Daymaniyat and Fahal Islands, Oman. Survey coastal areas near Muscat, where baseline data exist from 1978, to better quantify population declines. Train local people in survey techniques (McGrady and Nicoll 2008).

Aspinall, S. 1994. Sooty Falcons in the United Arab Emirates. Tribulus 42(2): 14-18.

Brown, L. H.; Urban, E. K.; Newman, K. 1982. The birds of Africa vol I. Academic Press, London.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. 1994. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 2: New World Vultures to Guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Ferguson-Lees, J.; Christie, D. A. 2001. Raptors of the world. Christopher Helm, London.

Gaucher, P.; Petit, T.; Symens, P. 1988. Notes on the study of the Sooty Falcon (Falco concolor) during its breeding season in Saudi Arabia. Alauda 56(3): 277-283.

IUCN. 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2013.2). Available at: (Accessed: 13 November 2013).

Jennings, M.C. and Sadler, T.A. 2006. Report on the activity of the small birds of prey and owls group. Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife, Sharjah, UAE.

Kavanagh, B. and King, H. 2008. Observations from 1998-2006 on the breeding population of sooty falcons Falco concolor on the Hawar Islands, Kingdom of Bahrain. Sandgrouse 30: 70-76.

McGrady, M. J.; Nicoll, M. A. C. 2008. A study of the status and distribution of breeding Sooty Falcons (Falco concolor) on the northern islands of Oman - 2007 & 2008.

McGrady, M.; Nicoll, A.; Williams, N. 2009. Sooty Falcon survey in Oman. Phoenix: 4.

McGrady, M.; Nicoll, M.; Williams, N. 2008. A pilot survey of Sooty Falcons on islands of Northern Oman. Phoenix: 7-8.

Nicoll, M.; McGrady, M.; Williams, N. 2008. Micro-chipping of Sooty Falcons on islands off northern Oman. Falco: 20-21.

Shah, J. N.; Khan, S. B.; Ahmed, S.; Javed, S.; Hammadi, A. 2008. Sooty Falcon in the United Arab Emirates. Falco: 16-19.

Further web sources of information
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Harding, M., Mahood, S., Symes, A., Taylor, J. & Khwaja, N.

Abdulla Al Khuzai, S., Al-Jbour, S., Baha El Din, S., Coles, T., Gschweng, M., Hawkins, F., Jennings, M., Mann, C., McGrady, M. & Shobrak, M.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Falco concolor. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Sooty falcon (Falco concolor) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Near Threatened
Family Falconidae (Falcons, Caracaras)
Species name author Temminck, 1825
Population size 10000-19999 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 380,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- Projected distributions under climate change