What is a falcon, really?  There was a time we thought we knew.  Based on their physical attributes and lifestyle, falcons enjoyed a very long run as a founding member of the order Falconiformes, along with the rest of the diurnal raptor-y type birds like vultures and eagles and hawks and hawk-eagles.  But the secrets that lie within their genes eventually became public, and it turns out that these arguably most impressive of the raptors (though even that term is less and less useful) are not, in any way, related to the rest of the apex predatory birds, and in fact lie much closer to the perching birds and not far at all from the parrots.  Birders in the 21st Century are no stranger to genetic re-evaluations of species relationships, but this one may well be considered the blot heard round the world.

Laughing Falcon, photo by Renato Espinosa

Laughing Falcon, photo by Renato Espinosa

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Written by Nate
Nate Swick is a birder. He grew up in the midwest but currently makes his home in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife and two young children, who are not yet aware that they are birders too. He has a soft spot for Piping Plovers and loves pelagics even when his stomach doesn’t, which makes him the quintessential Carolina birder. Nate is the editor of the ABA blog, host of the American Birding Podcast, and author of two books, Birding for the Curious and The ABA Field Guide to Birds of the Carolinas.