Family Falcons, Caracaras (Falconidae)

Least Concern

African Pygmy-falcon (Polihierax semitorquatus)


French: Fauconnet d’Afrique German: Halsband-Zwergfalke Spanish: Halconcito africano
Other common names: Pygmy Falcon

Falco simitorquata

[sic] A. Smith

, 1836,

Kuruman, Northern Cape, South Africa


N birds sometimes separated as race castanonotus, perhaps marginally larger and darker than those of S, but poorly differentiated, although widely separated geographically#R. Monotypic.


NE DRCongo, South Sudan, S Ethiopia, Somalia, NE Uganda and Kenya to SC Tanzania; S Angola and Namibia to NW South Africa.

Descriptive notes

18–21 cm; 44–72 g; wingspan 34–40 cm. Tiny shrike-sized falconet with white spots on wings and tail. Female with chestnut back in... read more


Main call a repeated fast series of 3–4 staccato yelps, “kri!-kikik” or “... read more


Arid and semi-arid thornbrush, scrub, savanna and steppe with sparse ground cover and scattered... read more

Food and feeding

Mainly small lizards such as agamids and skinks and large insects such as beetles, grasshoppers and termites, but also some rodents,... read more


Reported to be polyandrous, and occasionally has helpers at the nest that are young from a previous brood of the resident pair. Laying... read more


Resident in most areas but some local movement in drier parts of range, leaving areas during... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Widespread and common in most areas, range of its weaver host in S Africa being extended by availability of nest sites on... read more

Recommended citation

Kemp, A.C., Boesman, P. & Marks, J.S. (2020). African Pygmy-falcon (Polihierax semitorquatus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 20 January 2020).