Barbary Falcon plumage variation in the Canary Islands | Moroccan Birds

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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Barbary Falcon plumage variation in the Canary Islands

An article about “Variation of plumage coloration of breeding Barbary Falcons in the Canary Islands” has been published recently in the Bulletin of British Ornithologists' Club. This paper has some implications for Moroccan birds, e.g. hybrids - both natural and those related to escaped falconry birds, the ‘atlantis’ form of the Peregrine Falcon…

Rodríguez, B., Siverio, F., Siverio, M. & Rodríguez, A. 2011. Variable plumage coloration of breeding Barbary Falcons Falco (peregrinuspelegrinoides in the Canary Islands: do other Peregrine Falcon subspecies also occur in the archipelago? Bull. B.O.C. 131 (3): 140-153. PDF

For those with experience with these falcons in Morocco, do you have any comment on the Peregrine and Barbary Falcons in Morocco especially along the Atlantic coast in comparison with the information presented in this article?

A male adult Barbary Falcon from Lanzarote, Canary Islands
A male adult Barbary Falcon from Lanzarote, Canary Islands (Juan Sagardía, Halcon tagarote).
A female adult Barbary Falcon from Lanzarote, Canary Islands
A female adult Barbary Falcon from Lanzarote, Canary Islands (Juan Sagardía).


  1. I know thos falcons very well. Falco peregrinus Atlantis, Brosset 1964. I trapped and flew few ones.
    In Traditionnal Moroccan Falconry, Barbary, Brookei and Atlantis are all reffered as Bahri (Halcon de Bahari Spain.), litteraly the Maritime Paeregrine (Shaheen = Peregrine).

    In opposition with Falco Peregrinus Calidus, the Arctic Peregrine, known as Nebli, migrant bird considerred by falconer as a different species, because it is a migrant bird, breeding in May/June and starting to molt when the Bahari ends molting : August to January.

    Yet this subspecies (Atlantis) is not yet reconised, but they have significant academic ornithology differencies from the pure Pelegrinoides.
    Still, individual and regional variation of the barbaries of north africa make it very difficult to know for sure what is a sub species and what is an individual variation.

    It is also often found at the breeding ground, a pair of falcon with significant color variation between the male and the female, breaking the subspecies theory within the Bahri family...
    Atlantis breastis white, unlike the orange/pink colour of barbary and brookei, back feathers without orange tip but totally gray/blue, back of neck totally black unlike the orange henne colour of brookei or even more red of the barbary, and size really bigger than barbary.
    Still the barbaries of Haouz, Marrakesh area, Tayr Jrid (bird of palm trees because nesting there) are black headed and have also different flying and hunting style. Coastal birds hunt by surpris, inner land barbaries hunt with power flight to join and take prey...

    I consider this is similar with the red napped and black shaheen in the middle east ans Asia...



    1. Hi Qassim,

      Thank you very much for your contribution, it’s very good to hear such information about plumage variation between different falcon species from someone who knows them very well.

      Best regards,

    2. You are welcome. I am happy to share the little i know about the mystery of the barbary falcon and the so many different sub-species of the peregrines.

      I would like to add that Atlantic coast peregrine falcons are exactly same looking as the birds on photograph from the Canary Islands.

      The barbary falcon is still not well known by ornithologist nor biologists, and some cosider it as a Species Falco Pelerinoides Pelegrinoides, and some just see it as a sub-species of the peregrine : Falco Peregrinus Pelegrinoides. The genetic variation between barbaries and other peregrines are 0,33 % in the caryotype.
      While the Black Shaheen Falco Peregrinus Peregrinator is considerered as a sub-species of the peregrine, the Red napped Shaheen is now a subspecies of the barbary Falcon : Falco Pelegrinoides Babylonicus.
      This makes absolutely no sense, or we should also look at the black shaheen as a pelegrinoides sub species as well.

      The southern peregrines including F. P. Brookei share much similarities between themselves and the Northern migrant peregrines are different.
      Either we class migrant peregrines and resident ones as different species, there is no reason to register the barbary Falcon as a non peregrine sub species.

      Along the Atlantic coast as well in continental North Africa, no resident Barbary or Peregrine looks exactly the same in size and color variation, and it does not mean there are as many sub-species as individuals...

      This white phase color of the Canary Islands is the prototype of the Falco Peregrinus Atlantis hypothesis by Brosset , 1964, Museum d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris.

      He considered having found a new taxon of peregrine sub-species while today, in the canary islands, they thought have discovered a white barbary falcon...

      It seems that it is not going to be the end of the debate.

      I think no long term study has been carried yet on a regional population scale, and the researchers will be surprised to find peregrine or barbary falcons nesting few hundreds meters from each other, and many times a male from a color and a female with another color... for the same species and sub-species...

      In ornithology books, everything is so academic and definitive, in the reality of the field, we keep learing from nature every day.

      You can approach our Moroccan Falconry Association or myself to study the specimens we keep in captivity.

      We will be glad to assist any scientific approach about species taxonomy.