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Prairie Falcon

Falco mexicanus ORDER: FALCONIFORMES FAMILY: FALCONIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A large falcon of the arid American West, the Prairie Falcon hunts medium-sized birds and mammals.

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At a GlanceHelp

Measurements
Both Sexes
Length
14.6–18.5 in
37–47 cm
Wingspan
35.4–44.5 in
90–113 cm
Weight
14.8–38.8 oz
420–1100 g
Other Names
  • Faucon des Prairies (French)
  • Halcon mexicano, Halcon Pradeño, Halcon café, Halcon palido (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • The Prairie Falcon often shares its nesting cliff with Common Ravens, Golden Eagles, and Red-tailed Hawks.
  • The Prairie Falcon sometimes bathes in river shallows, but dust-bathing is probably more common than water-bathing, because of the general scarcity of standing water in its habitat.

Habitat


Grassland

Prairie Falcons inhabit grasslands, shrub-steppe, deserts, and other open areas of the West up to about 10,000 feet elevation. During the winter, they also reside in cultivated fields, lakeshores, desert scrub, as well as feedlots where European Starlings may provide a steady food source.

Food


Birds

Prairie Falcons eat large numbers of ground squirrels during the breeding season, as well as birds including Horned Larks, Cliff Swallows, and Mourning Doves, as well as small rodents, lizards, and insects. At high elevations they eat rosy-finches and pikas. During winter ground squirrels are dormant, and birds are a much more important part of this bird's diet.

Nesting

Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
1–8 eggs
Number of Broods
1 broods
Egg Length
1.9–2.2 in
4.7–5.6 cm
Egg Width
1.4–1.7 in
3.6–4.3 cm
Incubation Period
29–39 days
Nestling Period
29–47 days
Egg Description
Creamy, pink, or red-brown speckled with brown; lighter than eggs of other large falcons.
Condition at Hatching
Helpless, eyes partially open, covered in white down.
Nest Description

In their cliff nests Prairie Falcons dig out a small scrape to hold their eggs, but don't add nest material.

Nest Placement

Cliff

Most Prairie Falcons nests are on overhanging, south-facing cliffs up to 500 feet high. They also nest in trees, on power lines, on buildings, in caves, or in stone quarries. They sometimes use abandoned nests of other species, such as ravens and Golden Eagles.

Behavior


Aerial Forager

Prairie Falcons forage by swooping at a low angle to surprise prey on the ground, or, less often, by stooping on their prey from high above. They also hunt birds (and sometimes bats) in flight by chasing them or diving through flocks. Flight is rapid and direct with shallow, stiff wing beats. Adults are highly territorial during the breeding season and will attack intruding Prairie Falcons with frequent stoops, loud sounds, and tail chases.

Conservation

status via IUCN

Least Concern

Not as badly affected by pesticide era as Peregrine Falcon. May currently be increasing.

Credits

  • Steenhof, K. 1998. Prairie Falcon (Falco mexicanus). In The Birds of North America, No. 346 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.

Range Map Help

Prairie Falcon Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings