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What Do Falcons Eat? (Diet Explained)

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Falcons are carnivores, and they typically eat a mix of birds, fish, insects, small mammals, and small reptiles or amphibians. Their diet does vary depending on the species.

Falcons are notorious for their hunting skills. With their keen eyesight and incredible speeds, they catch prey with ease.

But what do they actually eat? And how do they really catch their prey?

In this blog article, we’ll explore the different types of food that falcons eat and explain how they hunt for their prey. 

What Do Falcons Eat?

The falcon is a carnivore that only eats meat. Their digestive system can’t break down plants, hence they either hunt or scavenge animals for food.

Falcons eat meat from a large variety of animals:

  • Birds
  • Fish
  • Insects
  • Mammals
  • Reptiles
  • Amphibians

Let’s take a closer look at a few of their most common prey.

Birds

Falcons eat plenty of birds, specifically songbirds and smaller birds like sparrows, pigeons, starlings, etc[1]

Falcons typically don’t kill the larger kinds of birds like geese or ducks. They’re simply too big. If they did hunt for these kinds of prey, the falcon would likely only go for the eggs or chicks.

songbird

Fish

Fish are a part of falcons diet. They can catch fish by flying close to the surface of the water, catching fish that live near the surface. However, this is not very common.

They may also catch fish by stealing them from other predators.

Insects

Insects make up a considerable portion of a falcons diet. This is because they are abundant, easy to catch, and provide the necessary nutrients to sustain life for these predators.

Bugs and insects are full of protein, which is great for falcons.

Small Mammals

Falcons are birds of prey commonly known for their hunting abilities. They are characterized by specialized hooked beaks, feet with sharp talons, keen eyesight, and the ability to fly at high speeds.

They use their beaks to break the necks of their prey, especially when they prey on small mammals such as mice, gophers, shrews, squirrels, rabbits, and hares.

squirrel in the wild

Small Reptiles & Amphibians

The diet of a falcon can include small reptiles and amphibians. These animals are typically very easy to catch, as they don’t move very fast. Small frogs or snakes both fall prey to falcons occasionally.

small frog on river

What Do Baby Falcons Eat?

Baby falcons, also known as eyasses, eat what their parents bring back to them until they learn how to hunt for themselves[2]. Hence, they eat much the same food as adult falcons.

Just like their parents, baby falcons eat meat. They eat what their parents bring home. In the beginning, they can’t tear meat apart themselves and are hence fed by their mother.

Around the age of six weeks, they start tearing apart meat themselves. During this time, the mother will simply toss prey into the nest.

When they’re old enough, they’ll hunt for their own food.

Can You Feed Falcons?

No, you shouldn’t feed wild falcons. They’re more than capable of catching prey themselves, and feeding them may disrupt their natural instincts, causing more harm than good.

Wild falcons shouldn’t be fed. They’re birds of prey and are skilled hunters by nature.

When it comes to falcons in captivity, they should only be fed meat. There are however some rules that apply:

  • Don’t feed falcons frozen meat
  • Don’t serve falcons hot meat
  • Don’t serve precooked meat – only raw meat

Falcons can live on a diet of any meat source. Typically what you see falcons feeding on in zoos are park pigeons.

It is not recommended that you feed your falcon pre-cooked meals. You should stick to what they would eat out in nature – raw meat.

a peregrine falcon on a branch with prey

What Do Falcons Eat In the Wild?

Falcons eat a variety of animals. As long as they’re small enough, and as long as the falcon can catch it, it’ll eat it.

Many people know what falcons look like; what they don’t know is what falcons eat. 

Falcon eat what is readily available whether it be insects, small mammals, or other birds. They will eat mice, quail, chicken, and other birds (among many other animals).

As long as an animal is small enough for a falcon to kill, it’ll eat it.

What Do Falcons Eat In Captivity?

A wild-caught falcon will likely be accustomed to eating what it can catch, whether that means rodents or other birds.

Hence, in captivity, they’re often fed many of the same animals. Most zoos also feed their birds of prey the cheapest meat, such as mice or leftovers.

In general, falcons feed on what they can get their hands on. In the wild, this means rodents such as mice, rats, or rabbits; sometimes even hoofed animals like deer or goats.

How Much Do Falcons Eat?

An adult falcon will eat about 10% of its body weight every day. A peregrine falcon, that weighs just above a pound, will eat about 2.5 ounces (70 grams) each day.

Falcons are predatory birds, which means they eat meat. But how much meat?

As falcons hunt for a living, they eat what they can catch, or they hunt until they’re full. On average they eat about 10% of their body weight each day.

This amount changes according to the bird’s age, health, and level of exercise are at any given time. Young falcons may eat more, relative to their size, as they’re constantly growing.

falcon and prey

How Often Do Falcons Eat?

Baby falcons typically feed 15-20 times a day, while adults can eat 5-8 times a day.

Falcons eat what they can catch and what is available to them. Depending on the size of the available prey, they may feed more or fewer times a day.

If they’re hunting small songbirds, they may eat 6-8 of them in a day, while a small mammal (e.g. rabbits) can provide much more food, resulting in them feeding just one time a day.

Whether the falcon eats or not depends mostly on what it can catch. If the falcon cannot find food, it will not eat.

Are Falcons Carnivores?

Yes, falcons are carnivores (meat-eaters). They only eat meat, as their stomach can’t process plants or vegetation.

Falcons are birds of prey. In other words, they hunt the prey for food, and they’re quite good at it. As a result, they’re categorized as carnivores.[3]

Falcons typically prey on birds, such as waterfowl, songbirds, doves, and pigeons. However, because of their small size (many species weigh less than 3 pounds), they need to hunt in pairs to take down larger birds.

Most falcons hunt alone, though some species are known to team up.[4]

Falcons are swift, powerful predators with curved beaks and sharp talons used for seizing prey mid-air. They have keen eyesight which allows them to quickly spot prey from high above, swoop down and grab their victim in mid-air.

falcon eating prey

Do Falcons Eat Plants?

According to the National Wildlife Federation, plants are not part of a falcon’s diet. This is due to their specialized digestive system.

As with all carnivores, falcons evolved as meat-eaters and hunters. Hence, their digestive system also evolved to better process meat. This resulted in them being incapable of processing plants.

How Do Falcons Hunt Their Prey?

Falcons hunt using their beaks and high speed. They can both hunt prey on the ground, or snatch prey mid-air using their beaks.[3]

Falcons are the fastest animals on the planet. The peregrine falcon can reach up to 240 mph while diving.

This speed is their greatest advantage when hunting. They use the element of surprise to dive onto unsuspecting prey. They primarily use their beaks to kill their prey.

What Impact Does Falcons’ Diet Have On Other Species?

Falcons are a predator species in an ecosystem. They feed on other animals, helping keep down the population of prey animals. They also recycle nutrients back into nature by scavenging.

Falcons play an important role in maintaining biodiversity. If predators did not exist it would be harder to keep the population of prey animals in check. 

Without predators, prey animals would run rampant and eat more than what they needed to survive. This lack of control would eventually lead to the extinction of both predator and prey animals.

Conclusion

Falcons are carnivores that feast on small animals. They eat a variety of animals, including birds, fish, insects, small mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.

They primarily hunt for live animals and use their high-speed diving and sharp beaks to kill their prey.

FAQs

Do Falcons Eat Other Birds?

Yes, falcons eat other birds. Falcons are carnivorous and their diet consists of meat from a variety of animals, including other birds, and even other birds of prey, if it’s available.

Do Falcons Eat Snakes?

Yes, falcons eat snakes. Falcons are known to be opportunistic hunters, who will eat whatever is available. They take what they can get. The snakes that falcons are typically not poisonous.

Do Falcons Eat Mice?

Yes, falcons do eat mice and a lot of them. They’re easy to catch, and they’re small enough for falcons to feed on.

Do Falcons Eat Squirrels?

Yes. Falcons are carnivorous birds that eat what is available to them. Their diet consists mostly of rodents, but they will also prey on snakes and turtles if given the chance.

Do Falcons Eat Cats?

Yes, it’s possible. Falcons are predatory birds, meaning that they hunt and kill other animals in order to survive. Falcons can be found anywhere from grasslands, to the arctic tundra, and there is even a species of bird that lives in tropical habitats.

Do Falcons Eat Fish?

Yes, they do. Falcons are carnivorous birds of prey that hunt for other animals, not just red meat.

What Do Peregrine Falcons Eat?

Peregrine falcons are expert hunters. Their high-speed dives allow them to catch prey in midair. The peregrine hunts birds, fish, and small mammals like rabbits, voles, mice, and shrews.

About Kaitlin Mullins

Birds are plenty, and they can be hard to keep track of. Thankfully, Katilin Mullins has taken charge of these. With plenty of free time spent bird watching, she’s a true expert on these intriguing animals.

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