Members of the Polihierax genus are small to very small falcons. Their wings are rather short, but quite pointed; the tail rounded to strongly graduated. The talons are very sharp, and the beak has a prominent ‘tooth’. The sexes are quite different in colour; the females having bright chestnut on the head or back.
The genus contains two species, one African, one south-western Asian. These species are quite different and are regarded by some as forming sub-genera. A third relative, even more isolated geographically, is Spiziapteryx of Argentina, which is very closely related. Both genera are related to Microhierax.
Oriental Region : Southeast Asia. Polihierax insignis occurs in Myanmar (previously widespread and locally abundant; it now appears scarce or uncommon, although the large quantity of suitable habitat remaining suggests that healthy populations may survive), Thailand (distributed through north, north-east and western provinces south to Ratchaburi, once widespread and fairly common but now scarce throughout after an apparent decline due to clearance of open deciduous forest habitat), Laos (historically very common and locally widespread in the south, but now apparently local and scarce), Cambodia (fairly widespread, chiefly in north, with large areas of suitable habitat remaining) and Vietnam (previously very common locally in south, now scarce; only present in any numbers in Dak Lak province). Populations in Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia are potentially large, but few data are available due to a lack of fieldwork in suitable habitat.
It is resident in wooded grasslands and open forest, chiefly deciduous dipterocarp and mixed deciduous forest of the plains and foothills up to 915 m, where it uses holes in trees for nesting and roosting
The only study of the breeding biology of this species is apaprently that of Kemp and Vidhidharm (1998), who made five days of observations at a nest in western Thailand. The nest was found on 28 March 1996 and was located in an old woodpecker hole 12 m high in an emergent 24-m tall Shorea obtusa tree. It contained two unmarked white eggs. The female incubated during the day, and both the male and female roosted in the nest hole at night. May also use old stick nests of other raptors or corvids, these observations however might be erroneous.
Feeds mainly on lizards, which are often captured on tree trunks and foliage. Prey delivered by a male to the nest included eight lizards (mostly Draco spp.), a cicada, an unidentified insect, and 12 other unidentified items (probably insects). A cicada and a grasshopper were captured by a nesting female. Observations of 13 capture attempts by the latter bird included six attempts on the ground, four into foliage, and three to a branch or twig, but no aerial hunting like that typical of the falconets.
Video White-rumped Falcon
copyright: Josep del Hoyo
This species is likely to have a moderately small population, which is thought to be declining owing to hunting and habitat loss. It is consequently classified as Near Threatened. However its abundance is pooly known and survey work is required to determine levels of occupancy over much of its range. Although dry dipterocarp forest has generally suffered less degradation than evergreen forest in many areas, it is increasingly cleared and disturbed, through wood collection and burning. Given the high levels of hunting in much of its range, and the ease with which this species is shot, persecution presumably poses an additional threat
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