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Aplomado Falcon Life History



In the United States, Aplomado Falcons are residents of desert and coastal grasslands with scattered yuccas and mesquites. In Mexico they use coastal savannas; woodland edges next to grasslands; marshes; and pastures with scattered palms. They range from sea level to over 13,000 feet in the grasslands of Peru, Ecuador, and Chile.

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Aplomado Falcons eat everything from insects to lizards and birds to small mammals. They take insects and birds on the wing or chase down prey on foot. Pairs also hunt cooperatively; one bird flushes prey and the other intercepts it.

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Nest Placement


Aplomado Falcons nest in trees and yuccas in open grasslands, oak woodlands, and wooded areas near marshes. They also nest on the crossbeams of power poles or directly on the ground.

Nest Description

Aplomado Falcons don't build nests of their own; they use stick nests built by other raptors, crows, jays, or magpies that are no longer occupied. Species whose nests they use include Roadside Hawks, White-tailed Kites, Gray Hawks, Common Black Hawks, Crested Caracaras, White-tailed Hawks, Brown Jays, and Chihuahuan Ravens.

Nesting Facts

Clutch Size:2-4 eggs
Number of Broods:1 brood
Egg Length:1.7-1.9 in (4.3-4.7 cm)
Egg Width:1.3-1.4 in (3.3-3.6 cm)
Incubation Period:31-32 days
Nestling Period:28-35 days
Egg Description:

Whitish with scattered brownish spots.

Condition at Hatching:

Covered in white down.

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Aerial Dive (ground/talons)

Aplomado Falcons are fast and powerful in flight, easily outpacing Mourning and White-winged Doves. These falcons are also adept at running on the ground and often chase after prey on foot. They tend to perch on the inner branches of trees, especially when roosting at night. During courtship males and females move from perch to perch together and take to the skies either soaring together or chasing each other at full speed. Pairs stay together year-round and often perch within sight of each other. Pairs also hunt together; one individual flushes prey while the other grabs it.

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Low Concern

Aplomado Falcons are rare in the United States and uncommon throughout their range from Mexico to Argentina. According to Partners in Flight the estimated global breeding population is 200,000. The species rates a 13 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, which means it is not on the Partners in Flight Watch List and is a species of low conservation concern. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the Aplomado Falcon as a species of Least Concern but notes a decreasing population trend. The northern population of the Aplomado Falcon in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and northern Mexico was once common, but by the 1930s was extirpated from the U.S. The last breeding pair of Aplomado Falcons was found in New Mexico in 1952. In 1986, the species was listed as an Endangered Species under the Endangered Species Act. As part of the recovery effort, The Peregrine Fund released more than 1,500 captive-bred Aplomado Falcons in Texas. Those captive-bred individuals are now breeding in the wild. Threats to Aplomado Falcons in North America include habitat degradation, pesticides, and prairie dog eradication programs. In southeastern Arizona and southern New Mexico, the amount of farmland and ranchland has increased substantially since 1910, at the expense of grassland habitat. Similarly, in Texas 80% of the coastal prairies have been lost since 1900. In northern Mexico, grasslands have also been converted to farmland and ranchland. Extensive grazing in desert grasslands often leads to shrub encroachment and grassland degradation, creating inhospitable areas for Aplomado Falcons. Pesticide application including DDT can also harm falcons via eggshell thinning and consumption of contaminated prey. In New Mexico and Arizona, large-scale prairie dog eradication programs used strychnine and cyanide to kill prairie dogs, but rodents and other falcon prey also died as a result. Prairie dogs help keep desert grasslands free of encroaching shrubs, but in their absence woody shrubs take over and ultimately reduce grassland quality.

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Dunne, P. (2006). Pete Dunne's essential field guide companion. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, USA.

Keddy-Hector, Dean P., Peter Pyle and Michael A. Patten. (2017). Aplomado Falcon (Falco femoralis), version 3.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love (2016). Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2016.1. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory, Laurel, MD, USA.

Partners in Flight (2017). Avian Conservation Assessment Database. 2017.

Sauer, J. R., D. K. Niven, J. E. Hines, D. J. Ziolkowski Jr., K. L. Pardieck, J. E. Fallon, and W. A. Link (2017). The North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis 1966–2015. Version 2.07.2017. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD, USA.

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY, USA.

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