Differing from the true Falcons very greatly in point of size, and structurally in having oval nostrils, are the curious little Pygmy Falcons, or Falconets (Microhierax), of the eastern Himalayas and Burma, and extending thence through the Malay Peninsula to Java, Borneo, the Philippine and Nicobar islands. The smallest of these is only five and one half inches long, and the largest is under seven inches in length, yet they have, it is said, all the spirit and dash of their larger relatives, not infrequently attacking and killing birds much larger than themselves. They have rather short wings, which are moved rapidly and continuously when in flight, and short bills, which are provided with a sharp tooth and a notch on either side. The Red-legged Falconet (M. Coerulescens), the smallest species, is found from Nepal and Sikhim to Burma, Siam, and Cambodia. It is greenish black above and mostly chestnut below, with forehead, hind neck, and collar of white, while the wings and tail are black, barred, or spotted with white. This, and apparently other species as well, feeds largely upon dragon-flies, beetles, butterflies, and other large insects, and occasionally upon small birds and mammals. They nest in hollow trees, lining the bottom of the cavity with wings of insects. The eggs are white. The Black-legged Falconet (M. Fringillarius) of the Malay Peninsula, Java, Sumatra, and Borneo is six and one tenth inches long, and is bluish black above, with the quills and tail black, barred with white on the inner web, and glossy black thighs, while the so-called White-legged species (M. melanoleucus) of Assam and Cachar is similar, but has the thighs and abdomen white.
Slightly larger than these, but otherwise quite similar, are the Falconets of the genus Poliohierax, which includes two species, one of which, the African Falconet (P. Semitorquatus), a bird about seven arid one half inches long, is found in southeastern and northwestern Africa, and the other (P. insignis) in the Indo-Chinese countries. Of the former Mr. Andersson, who found it in Damaraland, writes: “It is always met with in pairs and usually perches on bushes or on the lower or middle branches of small trees. I never saw it soar like other Falcons; it is not shy, and when disturbed it never moves farther than to the next conspicuous tree or bush. It feeds on small birds, mice, lizards, and coleopterous insects, the latter being, I apprehend, its chief food.”