Bat Falcon – Beautiful raptor well named!

Bat Falcon (Falco rufigularis): Halcón cuelliblanco; Fledermausfalke; Faucon des chauves-souris

Well named indeed. Even though much of the prey of this small but strikingly handsome falcon consists of passerine birds, it is best known for patiently perching close to bat caves and roosts. The first time I ever saw one was in northern Mexico at the entrance/exit to a famous bat cave. The species is well distributed from northern Mexico south through Central and South America to northern Argentina. Sean Beer took the following shots of this Bat Falcon on its high perch, snacking on what turned out to be a recently caught bat:

Female Bat Falcon at Siloe Lodge, road to La Suiza, Turrialba; photo by Sean Beer

Any small falcon encountered in our area is most likely this resident species, Other small falcons are reported less frequently, though the Merlin (Falco columbarius) is also to be expected. Check my earlier posts in this regard.

I can usually find a pair of Bat Falcons perched prominently above the Río Guayabo at the huge La Muralla waterfall. This week’s bird near Siloe Lodge, a recommendable backpackers’ accommodation on the road to La Suiza, was located with the help of enthusiastic birding guide Pascal Saidi – salut, Pascal! It is thought to be a female because of its relatively large size:

Bat Falcon pauses, giving a good view of the poor bat it has caught; photo by Sean Beer

Identification of this species is not usually a problem, except perhaps if seen only in flight, when it might suggest a Swift. With white throat and rufous underparts the Bat Falcon is a real beauty. The rufous ‘leggings’ are also seen to good effect in Sean’s final photograph:

Unlike hawks, falcons, including the Bat Falcon, use their talons only for holding the prey, which is killed using the beak.

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