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Shaheen Falcon

Shaheen Falcon

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The Shaheen Falcon also known as the Indian Peregrine Falcon, Black Shaheen, Indian Shaheen, or simply the Shaheen, is a non-migratory subspecies
Subspecies in biological classification, is either a taxonomic rank subordinate to species, ora taxonomic unit in that rank . A subspecies cannot be recognized in isolation: a species will either be recognized as having no subspecies at all or two or more, never just one...

 of the Peregrine Falcon
Peregrine Falcon
The Peregrine Falcon , also known as the Peregrine, and historically as the Duck Hawk in North America, is a widespread bird of prey in the family Falconidae. A large, crow-sized falcon, it has a blue-gray back, barred white underparts, and a black head and "moustache"...

 found mainly on the Indian subcontinent
Indian subcontinent
The Indian subcontinent, also Indian Subcontinent, Indo-Pak Subcontinent or South Asian Subcontinent is a region of the Asian continent on the Indian tectonic plate from the Hindu Kush or Hindu Koh, Himalayas and including the Kuen Lun and Karakoram ranges, forming a land mass which extends...

 and the nearby island of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...



The taxon was formally described by Carl Jakob Sundevall
Carl Jakob Sundevall
Carl Jakob Sundevall was a Swedish zoologist.Sundevall studied at Lund University, where he became a Ph.D. in 1823. After traveling to East Asia, he studied medicine, graduating as Doctor of Medicine in 1830....

 in 1837. It has sometimes been referred to as Falco atriceps or Falco shaheen.


The Shaheen is a small and powerful-looking falcon with blackish upperparts, rufous underparts with fine, dark streaks, and white on the throat. The complete black face mask is sharply demarcated from the white throat. It has distinctive rufous underwing-coverts. It differs in all these features from the paler F. p. calidus, which is a scarce winter migrant to Sri Lanka. Males and females have similar markings and plumage; apart from size there is no sexual dimorphism
Sexual dimorphism
Sexual dimorphism is a phenotypic difference between males and females of the same species. Examples of such differences include differences in morphology, ornamentation, and behavior.-Examples:-Ornamentation / coloration:...

. The birds range in length from 380 to 440 mm. The male is about the size of a House Crow
House Crow
thumb|300px|Bangalore, IndiaThe House Crow , also known as the Colombo Crow is a common bird of the Crow family that is of Asian origin but now found in many parts of the world, where they arrived assisted by shipping. It is between the Jackdaw and the Carrion Crow in size but is relatively...

 (Corvus splendens); the female is larger.

Distribution and habitat

The Shaheen is found in South Asia
South Asia
South Asia, also known as Southern Asia, is the southern region of the Asian continent, which comprises the sub-Himalayan countries and, for some authorities , also includes the adjoining countries to the west and the east...

 from Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

 and Kashmir region over across to the Republic of India and Bangladesh
Bangladesh , officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh is a sovereign state located in South Asia. It is bordered by India on all sides except for a small border with Burma to the far southeast and by the Bay of Bengal to the south...

 in the east and to Sri Lanka and south-eastern China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

. In the Republic of India, it has been recorded in all states (except Uttar Pradesh), mainly from rocky and hilly regions. The Shaheen has also been reported from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal
Bay of Bengal
The Bay of Bengal , the largest bay in the world, forms the northeastern part of the Indian Ocean. It resembles a triangle in shape, and is bordered mostly by the Eastern Coast of India, southern coast of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to the west and Burma and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to the...


Sri Lanka

The Shaheen is the local resident race of the Peregrine in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

 where it is uncommon but found throughout the island in the lowlands, and up to 1200 m in the hill country,, frequenting mountain cliffs and rock outcrops. The sheer cliff faces provide it with nest sites and serve as vantage points from which it can launch aerial strikes against fast-flying birds such as swift
The swifts are a family, Apodidae, of highly aerial birds. They are superficially similar to swallows, but are actually not closely related to passerine species at all; swifts are in the separate order Apodiformes, which they share with hummingbirds...

s. Sigiriya
Sigiriya is a large stone and ancient rock fortress and palace ruin in the central Matale District of Sri Lanka, surrounded by the remains of an extensive network of gardens, reservoirs, and other structures...

 is a well known site for it.

Ecology and behaviour

The Shaheen is usually seen as a solitary bird, or in pairs on cliffs and rock pinnacles. Peregrines typically mate for life. Because of the size difference between a male and a female, a mated pair generally hunt different prey species. It is adapted to taking prey in the air and can achieve a speed of 240 kmh in level flight; when diving after prey it can exceed speeds of 320  kmh (200 mph).


Shaheens mostly hunt small birds, though medium-sized birds such as pigeons and parrots are also taken. Strong and fast, they dive from great heights to strike prey with their talon
A talon is a sharp claw of an animal, especially a bird of prey, such as the eagle, hawk, falcon, owl, or buzzard. It may also refer to:Places:* Talon, Nièvre, a commune in the Nièvre département in France...

s. If the impact does not kill the prey, the falcon bites the neck of its victim to ensure death.


The reproductive season is from December to April. The birds occupy nests on high cliff ledges or in cavities and tunnels. They lay clutches of 3-4 eggs. The chicks fledge within 48 days with an average nesting success of 1.32 chicks per nest. In India the Shaheen has been recorded as nesting on man-made structures such as buildings and mobile phone transmission towers.


The conservation status of the Shaheen in Sri Lanka is vulnerable
Vulnerable species
On 30 January 2010, the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species identified 9694 Vulnerable species, subspecies and varieties, stocks and sub-populations.-References:...

. A population estimate of 40 breeding pairs there was made in 1996.

Further reading

  • Döttlinger, Hermann. (2002). The Black Shaheen Falcon (Falco Peregrinus Peregrinator Sundevall 1837), its Morphology, Geographic Variation and the History and Ecology of the Sri Lanka (Ceylon) Population. ISBN 3831136262