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a genus of birds of the family Falconidae of the order Falconiformes. The birds range from 21 to 50 cm in length. The maxilla is sharply toothed. The plumage is stiff and dense, and the wings are long and pointed. The 36 species are widely distributed, except in Antarctica. Some species are migratory: many range widely outside the breeding season. No nest is built; the eggs are laid on rock ledges, on the ground, in old nests of other birds, or on buildings, for example, in belfries and towers. A clutch contains three or four spotted eggs, which are incubated primarily by the female for about a month. The diet consists of small mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects; many species capture birds and insects on the wing. The larger species are used for hunting.
Twelve species of Falco occur in the USSR. They include the gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus), peregrine falcon (F. peregrinus), saker falcon (F. cherrug), luggar falcon (F. jugger), lanner falcon (F. biarmicus), and several small falcons, which are often segregated in special genera or subgenera. Small falcons found in the USSR include the hobby (F. subbuteo), merlin (F. columbarius), kestrel (F. tinnunculus, F. sparverins), lesser kestrel (F. nauman-ni, F. amurensis), and red-footed falcon (F. vespertinus).