|Conservation status||Has undoubtedly declined in some developed areas, but current population probably stable.|
|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.|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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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
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsA loud kree-kree-kree, most often heard near nest.
Learn more about this sound collection.