The pigmy Falcons, or Falconets as they have been termed, are not closely allied to Falcons nor to any other group. They are distinguished from all other Accipitrine birds by their mode of nidification, in which they resemble Owls, Parrots, Barbets, &c, for they lay white eggs in a hole hollowed in the trunk or branch of a tree. The eggs ate moderately elongated ovals, fairly close in texture, without gloss, and are said by Hume to be unlike the eggs of any Accipitrine birds in shape and texture, apart from colour. The Falconets inhabit open parts of forests, and are usually seen perched on dead twigs or branches on tolerably high trees; from their perch they launch into the air in pursuit of their prey, principally insects, and then return to the same perch. They also at times kill small birds. Their flight is peculiar, not unlike that of Artamus, but their method of hawking insects resembles that of a Bee-eater.
The bill is rather large and compressed, the upper mandible strongly toothed on each side, in some individuals there is a second tooth behind the first. The wings are short and rounded, the first 3 quills not differing greatly in length, but usually the 2nd and 3rd are longer ; tail rather long, square at the end; legs and feet stout, middle toe not elongate, lateral toes unequal; claws strong, very little curved. Sexes alike in plumage.
Key to the Species.
a. A broad white nuchal collar; thigh-coverts ferruginous…………………………..M. eutolmus, p. 432.
b. No white collar.
a1. Thigh-coverts and lower surface throughout white…………………………..M. melanoleucus, p. 433.
b1. Thigh-coverts black…………………………..M. fringillarius, 434.
As every one of these species has been identified in turn with Falco caerulescens of Linnaeus, I think it best to follow Mr. Gurney's suggestion and not employ that name for any of them ; the figure of Edwards on which it is founded cannot be satisfactorily referred to any one of the three.