This falcon was photographed on the cliffs where the Barbary Falcons are known to breed near Rissani, Morocco in mid-April 2015 by David Walsh. The identification of this interesting bird is challenging because it presents the characteristics of both Barbary and Peregrine falcons. Is it an atypical Barbary Falcon with dark head/forehead and large moustaches, or is it a hybrid between both this and the Peregrine? If it’s a hybrid, could it be of natural origin, or one of the parents originated from lost falconers’ birds? (see the article Rodríguez et al 2011 about the Barbary Falcon plumage variation in the Canary Islands).
Thanks David for sending this interesting bird!
Dick Forsman kindly commented the following about this bird:
To me this looks like a good Barbary, although I cannot see the details of the barring of breast and flanks, but the overall rich colour of the underparts looks OK for Barbary. Some Barbary’s have a Peregrine-like dark head, like this bird, and this is perfectly OK and is just part of the normal variation in Barbary. Many of the birds I have seen in the Middle East look like this bird, and there are no Peregrines in those areas to complicate the matter, as is the case in Morocco.
Andrea Corso also kindly commented in the comments section below:
…. this is a nice bird that indeed as Dick commented is well among the variability spectrum of Barbary falcon, that in general and on average (but correctly Falconry Morocco commented about the huge variability within the same clutch of juv.) follow a cline gradient from Morocco to Middle East and then Far East of dark Peregrine-like birds to very paler, typically widely rusty headed birds to the east !
The bird in the photo is easily eliminated being not a calidus due to the tail-tip/wing-tip ratio (and indeed this is pro adult male), as calidus of any sex will have much longer tail projection, cleaner white underparts etc. Pro Barbary is also the very wide and high pale cheek-patch.
However, more should be done about Peregrine taxa in North Africa, chiefly the coastal birds, with an un-named, un-described taxon I am working on !!
See also the comment of Falconry Morocco in the comments section below. As his pseudo-name suggest, he is a falconer, but he is very knowledgeable about the falcons breeding in Morocco (and elsewhere) and their individual variations.