Photo: Pete Gregoire/Flickr Creative Commons

Prairie Falcon

Falco mexicanus

A large falcon of the arid west. The Prairie Falcon is nearly the size of the famous Peregrine, but differs in its hunting behavior, often pursuing small prey with rapid, maneuverable flight close to the ground. Although it is characteristic of desolate plains and desert wilderness, this falcon has also adapted to altered landscapes: in winter, it is often seen flying over southwestern cities, or hunting Horned Larks in farm country.
Conservation status Has undoubtedly declined in some developed areas, but current population probably stable.
Family Falcons
Habitat Open hills, plains, prairies, deserts. Typically found in fairly dry open country, including grassland and desert. Also in open country above treeline in high mountains. In winter, often found in farmland and around lakes and reservoirs, and may regularly winter in some western cities. Avoids forested country, and usually scarce on the immediate coast.
A large falcon of the arid west. The Prairie Falcon is nearly the size of the famous Peregrine, but differs in its hunting behavior, often pursuing small prey with rapid, maneuverable flight close to the ground. Although it is characteristic of desolate plains and desert wilderness, this falcon has also adapted to altered landscapes: in winter, it is often seen flying over southwestern cities, or hunting Horned Larks in farm country.
Photo Gallery
  • adult
  • adult with Gambel's Quail
  • adult
Feeding Behavior

Uses a wide variety of hunting techniques. Often hunts by flying fast and low over ground, taking prey by surprise. Also will dive steeply from the air, or pursue birds in flight.


Eggs

Usually 3-5, sometimes 2-6. Whitish, spotted with brown. Incubation is mostly by female, about 31 days. Male brings food to incubating female, and he may sit on eggs temporarily while she is eating. Young: Female remains with young for about the first 4 weeks; male brings food, and female feeds it to young. After 4 weeks, female may do some hunting. Young leave the nest at about 5-6 weeks after hatching.


Young

Female remains with young for about the first 4 weeks; male brings food, and female feeds it to young. After 4 weeks, female may do some hunting. Young leave the nest at about 5-6 weeks after hatching.

Diet

Mostly small birds and mammals. Often will focus on one abundant and easily caught prey species at a time. May feed heavily on ground squirrels in early summer, shifting to young songbirds when many are fledging; in winter, may feed on common flocking birds like Horned Lark. Many other species eaten, up to size of grouse and jackrabbits; also lizards, insects.


Nesting

Courtship involves much flying about and calling near potential nesting ledges. Male performs aerial acrobatics, struts back and forth at nest site. Nest site is typically on a ledge of a cliff, in a recessed site, protected by an overhang of rock. Sometimes nests on dirt bank, or uses an abandoned nest of raven or hawk on ledge; rarely uses nest in tree. No nest built; only a simple scrape in gravel or dirt on ledge.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Many adults may be permanent resident near their nesting sites. Others move short distances south for winter. Some also move eastward somewhat on Great Plains after nesting season.

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Migration

Many adults may be permanent resident near their nesting sites. Others move short distances south for winter. Some also move eastward somewhat on Great Plains after nesting season.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
A loud kree-kree-kree, most often heard near nest.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.

How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Falcons Hawk-like Birds

Prairie Falcon

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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