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Laverian Falcon (national animal)

Laverian Falcon


Laverian Falcon


Conservation status


Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Falconiformes
Family: Falconidae
Genus: Falco
Species: F. Laverinus


Binomial name
Falco Laverinus





Laverian Falcon

The Laverian Falcon (Falco Laverinus, Laveransk Falk) is a medium-large falcon that is endemic to Laver Island. The Laverian Falcon is a bird of prey in the genus Falco, Laverian Falcons are widely distributed in all Laverian forests and parks, the bird is also a common sight in cities and towns due to its very flexible diet. Adult falcons have thin, tapered wings, which enable them to fly at high speed and change direction rapidly. Fledgeling falcons, in their first year of flying, have longer flight feathers, which make their configuration more like that of a general-purpose bird such as a broad-wing. This makes flying easier while learning the exceptional skills required to be effective hunters as adults.
The bird kills with their beaks, using a "tooth" on the side of their beaks—unlike the hawks, eagles, and other birds of prey in the Accipitridae, which use their feet.
As is the case with many birds of prey, Laverian Falcons have exceptional powers of vision; the visual acuity of the bird has been measured at 2.6 times that of a normal human.


Courted Laverian falcons

Etymology

The Late Latin falco is believed to derive from falx as meaning a sickle, referencing the claws of the bird. In Middle English and Old French, the term faucon refers generically to several captive raptor species.

Laverian is the demonym variant of Laver and was latched on the bird's name by Edvard Edvinssen.

The bird has been present on the island since the Vikings arrived and possibly even earlier, the earliest recording of the Laverian Falcon dates back to the Laverian sagas; which describes the bird accurately and dubbed it, "Svartr falkr" (Black Falcon). The Laverian Falcon has been in Laverian Viking mythology viewed as the enforcer of Loki, the bird's diet allows it to attack ravens, which the Vikings believed to be the eyes of Odin. Other than resorting to numerous forms of cannibalism and unusual bird prey, the falcon will also eat crops and has even been observed to wait until harvest season to harvest some food itself.

The Vikings largely feared the bird because of its almost demonic like behaviour, the Vikings also believed that if one tamed a Laverian Falcon they would be possessed by Loki as the bird brought Loki's will upon the people.

Upon the Christianisation of Laver Island by the Danes, the Laverian Falcon went by the name of "Satans hjælper" (Satan's helper). The Christians, who were told about the tales of the falcon by the Viking pagans, believed the bird to be an incarnation of Satan himself.
It is said that if the bird builds a nest close to your residence, death would occur.

Biologist Edvard Edvinssen in 1808 decided to study the bird in hopes of that he could remove the satanic view society held of the bird. He was very fascinated by it and studied the bird greatly. Edvard did not want the Laverian Falcon to be confused with the almost identical-looking Black Falcon found only in Australia, and thus he named the bird appropriately after the location it is found in.

Description
Size: (adult, beak to tail): 55 – 46 cm (average 50 cm), tail makes up about half the length. Note: males are larger than females- this is a form of sexual dimorphism and unique to the Laverian Falcon.

Average weight: 1000 g (male) 865 g (female).

Wingspan: 100 –120 cm.

Colouration is uniformly dark brown to sooty black; juveniles are generally darker than adults; underwing feathers are two-tone (flight feathers slightly paler); adults may have an evident dark stripe below the eye. Occasionally the birds may have a white chin, spots on underwing coverts or bars on under tail coverts. Cere, eye-ring and feet are pale grey (or pale blue-grey); the eye is dark brown and beak tip is black. Talons are black. Chick is white down.

The falcon's body is streamlined with a relatively long tail and slim build. Wings are long and pointed tapering toward wingtip.

Notes on identification

Laverian Falcons can be differentiated from hawks by their toothed upper mandible (with a corresponding notch in their lower mandible) and by their long pointed wings.
Other falcons and hawks are common species in Laver Island, and they are the most likely to be confused with the Laverian Falcon (particularly brown falcon juveniles and black morphs).


Laverian Falcon flying

Population and threat status
The Laverian Falcon is listed by the IUCN as least concern. It is generally considered heavy populated, common and nomadic.

It is listed as Vulnerable in Western Laver island because of the fewer nest-building opportunities.

In 2009 BirdLife International estimated the Laverian Falcon's population as between 1700 and 7700 mature individuals, with a stable population trend.

Behaviour and ecology
The Laverian Falcon is known to harass other bird species and animals, including raptors and corvids. It may be commonly found resting in trees and buildings where it spies on its prey or humans abandoning their leftover food.

Flight and hunting style

The falcon's flight has been described as variable. Generally, it flies with relaxed ‘crow-like’ wingbeats with occasional soaring. It also flies with a stiffer, shorter wingbeat. It glides and soars with slightly drooped or sometimes horizontal wings, carpals forward (wings are stretched out straight when gliding). The tail is normally folded (except when soaring, when it is fanned with notched corners). It often soars for long periods without flapping and catches prey in the air or on the ground. In pursuit of prey, it uses powerful, rapid wingbeats. While resting the bird's wingtips are shorter than the tail and legs appear short.

The bird spends the rest of its life with a courted partner but usually hunts alone. Laverian Falcons will also sometimes hunt in pairs or take turns to hunt when they have to provide food for their offspring.

When the falcon results to cannibalism it is usually a bird of another species that it will attack, most often unsuspecting birds in nests fall victim, but the falcon will not shy away from a chase. When chasing another bird, the falcon will attack the prey's wings with its beak until one wing breaks.
In most desperate of situations, the falcon will eat its own offspring, this will, however, ruin its courtship with its partner and most times result in a duel to the death between the once courted birds.

During harvesting season the falcon will fly in to grab as much food as it can, but often this method of food gathering results in its death as farmers go to great lengths to preserve their crops.

Diet
The Laverian Falcon's diet primarily consists of smaller mammals and other birds.
The falcon's diet is not strict and it will on multiple occasions settle in areas where there is not much meat around if the vegetation or human trash can sustain it.
The falcon will eat all sorts of animals both alive and dead, it is not uncommon for the bird to snatch kittens and other weak animals.

Edvinssen conducted an experiment in which he would test the lengths the bird will go to feed itself and what animals it would not eat.
When introduced to foreign species, the falcon is observed to study the animals it is introduced to and then attack if no other familiar food source is present. The bird will, however, not attack if it can not pinpoint a weakness in its potential prey.
Such prey include turtles.
The bird is also known to, uniquely of its kind, be able to survive off of edible plants and various foods humans consume, this allows the bird to be able to settle in environments with a scarce number of potential prey. The very adaptable bird will even mark entire city neighbourhoods as a territorial ground if it can live off of the trash produced.
When introduced to foreign vegetables and berries, the bird has shown hesitancy to consume the food but will not shy away from eating them if it can not find a familiar food source.

Edvinssen concluded that the adaptable and curious bird eats almost anything it comes across, it will, however, only stick to food it knows unless desperate.
Younglings are primarily fed meat but are introduced to berries and other edible plants early on by their parents.

The falcon will also avoid animals larger than itself and avoids direct contact with humans. Desperate falcons may harass humans who carry food and even attack dogs.



Laverian Falcon spying on prey

Breeding
Laying time: between May and November (usually July to September). Clutch size: 1 - 5 (usually 3 or 4). Egg size: 42x32 mm. Incubation: approximately 34 days (by female, possibly by male for short periods). Nestling period: 5.5 – 7 weeks. Life span: at least 12 years in the wild, and 8 years in captivity.

The Laverian Falcons nests in living or dead trees, using the stick nests of corvids or other raptors. It may take over nests occupied by other birds. It appears there may be interspecific competition for nest sites between the Laverian Falcon and other raptors and corvids. Nest sites are located in more hidden locations because of the bird's protective nature.

During breeding season males perform courtship displays such as horizontal figure eights around the nest it built or stole for its potential mate in hopes to win her over.
Female Laverian Falcons are very picky with their partners since the birds will be spending the rest of their lives with one partner.
The male brings food to the female during incubation and brooding. During the later nestling period, both sexes may forage to feed the young.

Post-fledging behaviour and development of young falcons appear to be very similar to that of the peregrine falcon and includes spending time with siblings and parents, and practising hunting, territorial and courtship behaviours.
Young Laverian Falcons leave their parents at around 20 weeks, and already when it is a year old it will look for a partner during breeding season.

Laverian Falcons raised in captivity live shorter than their wild counterparts and will not forge a proper bond with a partner. The reason for this is still unknown.

Laverian Falcons will have multiple children with their partners every year.

If a falcon eats its offspring, its partner will end the courtship and challenge the bird to a duel of death.
Falcons who are widowed do not look for other partners, but instead, intentionally starve themselves.
If a courtship has been broken off for whatever reason, the birds will look for another suitable mate.

Threats

The falcon serves as prey to other falcons and hawks, but have been victims to cats who looked for their kittens the falcons have snatched.
Farmers will also be on the lookout for Laverian Falcons and the falcon's curiosity and desire to eat is perhaps the most notable cause of death for the bird.

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