ETYM Old Eng. faucon, faucoun, Old Fren. faucon, falcon, faucon, from Late Lat. falco, perh. from Latin falx, falcis, a sickle or scythe, and named from its curving talons. Related to Falchion.
Diurnal birds of prey having long pointed powerful wings adapted for swift flight.
Any bird of prey of the genus Falco, family Falconidae, order Falconiformes. Falcons are the smallest of the hawks (15–60 cm/6–24 in). They nest in high places and kill their prey by “stooping” (swooping down at high speed). They include the peregrine and kestrel.
The peregrine falcon F. peregrinus, up to about 50 cm/1.8 ft long, has become reestablished in North America and Britain after near extinction (by pesticides, gamekeepers, and egg collectors). When stooping on its intended prey, it is the fastest creature in the world, timed at 240 kph/150 mph.
Other hawks include the worldwide merlin or pigeon hawk F. columbarius and the Eurasian kestrel F. tinnunculus. Merlins are about 30 cm/1 ft in length, steel-blue above and reddish below, and nest on moors. Kestrels are just over 30 cm/1 ft long, with gray head and tail, light chestnut back with black spots, and an unmistakeable quivering hover.