New Zealand Falcon Falco novaeseelandiae


Justification of Red List Category
This species has a moderately small population which may be experiencing declines. However, there are a number of moderately large sub-populations and hence it is classified as Near Threatened.

Population justification
Fox (1978) estimated the population at 3,700-4,400 breeding pairs, equating to 7,400-8,800 mature individuals, and a 2010 estimate was also 4,000 pairs though this is based on the same information (Stewart in litt. 2010) Given the estimate is now over 30 years old, and the population may have declined since, the population is best placed in the band 2,500-9,999 mature individuals. This equates to 3,750-14,999 individuals in total, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals.

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be in decline owing to ongoing habitat destruction, predation by invasive species and human persecution.

Distribution and population

Falco novaeseelandiae is endemic to New Zealand, and is separated into three forms - Bush, Southern and Eastern - which vary in plumage, size, range and habitat type (Marchant and Higgins 1993). Bush Falcon (c.650 pairs) breeds in the North Island and north-western South Island; Southern Falcon (c.200 pairs) breeds in Fiordland, Stewart Island and its outliers, and the Auckland Islands (Fox 1978, Heather and Robertson 1997, Bell and Lawrence 2009); Eastern Falcon (c.3,150) is found in open terrain in the eastern South Island (Fox 1978, Heather and Robertson 1997, Bell and Lawrence 2009). It was probably once found throughout the North and South Islands, but may have never been common. Population trends are unknown but it may be declining.


It occurs predominantly in bush and forest, and Eastern Falcon also breeds in rough farmland and dry tussockland. The species also breeds in exotic pine plantations (Stewart and Hyde 2004) and this is now recognised as a major habitat for the species (Pawson et al. 2010) and extremely high densities can be supported (Seaton 2009). Adults are mainly sedentary but juveniles wander widely and are seen in farmland, orchards and urban areas. Juvenile dispersal may occur earlier in exotic pine plantations (Seaton et al. 2008). Established pairs remain on territory all year and display during late winter and early spring before nesting in September-December. When food availability is high females may breed in their first year (Seaton and Hyde 2008), though age of sexual maturity is typically considered 20 months (Marchant and Higgins 1993). The majority of prey taken are small passerines (Seaton et al. 2008), although prey species several times heavier than the falcon have also been recorded (Hyde and Seaton 2008).


The range has been reduced owing to forest clearance (Heather and Robertson 1997) (although it is still large, estimated at a minimum of 100,000 km2) (Fox 1978), and habitat loss is an ongoing, although much reduced, threat. Introduced brush-tailed possum Trichosurus vulpecula take eggs. Although protected since 1970 (Marchant and Higgins 1993), birds are occasionally shot by farmers, and pigeon and poultry keepers (Heather and Robertson 1997), possibly as many as 400 a year (N. Hyde in litt. 1999).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. Research into the use of exotic pine plantations by this species is ongoing using radiotracking and colour-banding (Seaton 2009, Seaton et al. 2010).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Monitor the three populations and ascertain trends. Evaluate threats if declines are confirmed. Implement control measures against the brush-tailed possum. Raise awareness of the species's status, particularly amongst farmers, in an effort to reduce persecution. Protect areas of suitable habitat. Manage pine plantation habitat to create a high local heterogeneity of stand ages throughout a plantation (Seaton et al. 2010). 


43 cm. Small, dark brown raptor. Head, nape, back, wings and tail dark dark brownish-black with all except head barred buff; thin rufous eyebrow; base of bill and chin white, throat and side of neck buff streaked dark brown; breast and belly dark brown; cere, legs and feet yellow; juvenile more dark with less distinctive markings. Similar species: Australasian Harrier Circus approximans is much larger, with long fingered wings. Hints: . Voice: Loud rapid 'kek-kek-kek'.


Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Bird, J., Calvert, R., Martin, R, Taylor, J.

Stewart, D.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Falco novaeseelandiae. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 22/05/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 22/05/2022.