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Although members of the falcon family, in many respects forest-falcons resemble hawks or harriers more than other falcons; indeed, they are often called harrier-hawks, a term which is descriptively apt but taxonomically inaccurate.
Forest-falcons, like many Accipiters but unlike other falcons, are adapted for agility in thick forest rather than outright speed in clear air. They have short wings, long tails, and extraordinarily acute hearing.
Diet is a mixture of birds, mammals and reptiles. Hunting is often performed in Goshawk fashion: the bird takes up a perch in an inconspicuous position and waits for a prey species to pass, then strikes with a short, rapid pursuit. Forest-falcons are inventive, flexible hunters, and are also capable of catching terrestrial prey on foot.
In 2002, a new species was described, found in south eastern Amazonia and the rain forests of Brazil. It has been named Micrastur mentoni, the Cryptic Forest-falcon.