The Prairie Falcon

by Larry Jordan on January 4, 2012

Prairie Falcon (Falco mexicanus) photos by Larry Jordan

On our recent Fall River Christmas Bird Count on December 17th, we tallied 127 species in our count circle. Some finds were extraordinary, like the Long-tailed Duck, Common Redpoll, Red-naped Sapsucker and American Tree Sparrow.

Others like the Prairie Falcon (Falco mexicanus) are seen every winter in the Fall River/McArthur area. However, according to this range map, courtesy of Terry Sohl of South Dakota Birds, I should look for Prairie Falcons there in the early spring when they begin nesting. Click on photos for full sized images.

The Prairie Falcon inhabits dry environments of western North America where cliffs or bluffs punctuate open plains and shrub-steppe deserts. An efficient and specialized predator of medium-sized desert mammals and birds, the Prairie Falcon ranges widely, searching large areas for patchily distributed prey1.

Several species of ground squirrels are the mainstay of the Prairie Falcon’s diet; they provide fat-rich calories that the Prairie Falcon needs for raising its broods of 4–5 young during its 3 to 4 month nesting season. When ground squirrels move underground to escape summer heat and dryness, Prairie Falcons leave their nesting areas in search of other prey. Horned Larks and Western Meadowlarks are important prey items in winter1.

Having missed the opportunity to see the rare Common Redpoll (rare for our neck of the woods or savannahs that is) I headed back up to McArthur to try to see the Redpoll about a week after the CBC. I dipped on the Common Redpoll but got these photos of the Prairie Falcon for my efforts.

A second trip to the Fall River area a couple weeks later yielded the Common Redpoll, American Tree Sparrow and the Western Screech-Owl seen in the previous post. I was never able to catch up with the Red-naped Sapsucker but getting close-up views of the Prairie Falcon was enough to make this birder happy!

If you want to see some really incredible photos of the Prairie Falcon, check out my friend Mia McPherson’s post. Now those are some gorgeous shots! To see more great bird photos from around the world, check out World Bird Wednesday!

References: 1Birds Of North America Online

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Arija January 5, 2012 at 4:42 am

Beautiful, the last shot is superb.


OneJackdaw January 5, 2012 at 5:26 am

Terrific shots of the Prairie Falcon, Larry. Thanks for the info and the range map. Always nice to learn something new.


TexWisGirl January 5, 2012 at 6:11 am

beautiful bird. 🙂


Larry January 5, 2012 at 6:32 am

@Arija thank you!

@Hilke thanks! Birds of North America Online is such a great resource

@Theresa it is a beauty! I’d like to get some good shots of a Rough-legged Hawk. Maybe today!


Liz January 5, 2012 at 7:19 am

These are great Larry! What a stunning bird. Thanks for the information too. I love that last shot.


Kelly January 5, 2012 at 2:04 pm

…another bird I have yet to see in person. He’s so beautiful. I love the face bars.


Mia McPherson January 5, 2012 at 2:51 pm

Larry, terrific information on Prairie Falcons and images. Thanks for including a link to my photos too.


Larry January 5, 2012 at 3:18 pm

@Liz the last shot is my favorite too

@Kelly they are gorgeous falcons

@Mia you’re welcome. Your photos are so amazing!


NatureFootstep Birds January 7, 2012 at 7:06 am

127 species in one day?? I can´t get that much in a year in Sweden. Not even those days when I was 5 days looking at migrating birds. It´s amazing. Maybe I should go to where you live.

Falcons are my favourites of all birds. 🙂 They look so gentle and sweet, yet you know they are dangerous raptors.


Larry January 7, 2012 at 11:23 pm

@NF the 127 species were all found in a 15 mile (24 km) diameter circle for the annual Christmas Bird Count, conducted from before dawn to dusk. I think we had at least 26 people participating in the count so there were a lot of eyes out there looking for those birds!


nature rambles January 8, 2012 at 8:23 am

Love your photos! what a great looking bird! About your question on my blog, yes, these are native birds.


CaroleM. January 8, 2012 at 11:10 am

enjoyed seeing the Prairie Falcon; great to be out there at the time!


Pieces of Sunshine January 8, 2012 at 11:44 am

The Prairie Falcon is quite a handsome bird. Wonderful that it stayed on the log/fencepost long enough for you to catch some good shots.


Stewart M - Australia January 8, 2012 at 2:30 pm

Yes – that would be a very good bird to see. I’ve been a bit short of birds of prey for a couple of months – must try harder!!

The crake’s were being very ‘showy’ on the day – I think everybody got their best views ever.

Cheers – Stewart M – Australia


Sallie (FullTime-Life) January 10, 2012 at 10:32 am

Love the last photo especially. It must be wonderful to go on a bird count, I’d love to do that sometime.


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