In “4 Falcons in Maine (with Photos) – Bird Feeder Hub,” the article explores the four different species of falcons that can be found in Maine. From the American Kestrel, with its small stature but fierce predatory skills, to the Merlin, a master of high-speed attacks, these falcons exhibit unique characteristics that set them apart from other raptors. The article also introduces the Gyrfalcon, a rare and lucky sighting in Maine, and the Peregrine Falcon, known for its incredible speed and widespread presence. With stunning photos and insightful information, this article provides a captivating glimpse into the world of falcons in Maine.
Types of Falcons in Maine
Maine is home to four species of falcons: the American Kestrel, Merlin, Gyrfalcon, and Peregrine Falcon. Each of these falcons has unique characteristics, habitats, and behaviors that make them fascinating to observe in the wild. Let’s take a closer look at each of these magnificent birds of prey.
The American Kestrel is the smallest falcon in North America, measuring between 8.7-12.2 inches in length and weighing between 2.8-5.8 ounces. Despite their small size, Kestrels are formidable predators, capable of hunting birds larger than themselves. They have small heads and distinctive coloring, with rusty browns and bluish grays. Both males and females have black barring on their backs and two black stripes on their faces. Females are mostly rusty colored, while males have bluish-gray on their heads and wings.
Habitat and Behavior
American Kestrels can be found in various habitats, but they are most commonly seen perching on fence posts and telephone wires, especially around farmland. They have the unique ability to position their bodies into the wind and hover in place, scanning the ground below for prey. These falcons primarily feed on insects and invertebrates such as grasshoppers, beetles, cicadas, dragonflies, moths, and spiders. They also consume mice, other small rodents, bats, lizards, frogs, and songbirds.
Breeding Season and Migration
American Kestrels breed in Maine during the summer months. They are most active during this time, so it’s the best opportunity to spot them. However, they migrate further south for the winter, so they are not typically seen in Maine during the colder months.
Merlins are slightly larger than American Kestrels, measuring between 9.4-11.8 inches in length and weighing between 5.6-8.5 ounces. They have a stocky body, squarish head, and heavily streaked chest and belly. Their coloring can range from gray to brown, depending on their geographic location. In flight, they have distinctive heavy barring on the underside of their wings.
Habitat and Behavior
Merlins are known for their high-speed attacks on prey. They are experts at zooming across the ground horizontally or chasing their prey from below. They primarily feed on other birds, including house sparrows, dickcissels, sandpipers, and other shorebirds. Merlins are usually found near forest edges and on low perches in open grasslands. They are constantly on the move, stalking small birds, making them challenging to spot.
Merlins are migratory birds that pass through Maine during the spring and fall migration seasons. They travel between their breeding grounds to the north and their winter grounds to the south.
Gyrfalcons are larger falcons, measuring between 18.9-25.5 inches in length and weighing between 28.2-74.1 ounces. They have a striking appearance, with two distinct color morphs: white and gray. The white morph resembles a snowy owl with white plumage flecked with black, while the gray morph has dark backs and heads, either solid or with white banding.
Habitat and Behavior
Gyrfalcons breed around the Arctic circle and then move south into Canada for the winter. They can occasionally be seen in the states along the U.S.’s northern border, including Maine, during the winter. They prefer areas with abundant food, such as coasts, grasslands, and river valleys. Gyrfalcons rely mainly on ptarmigan and seabirds for food in their breeding range. They are believed to mate for life and nest on cliffs or reuse the nests of ravens and eagles.
Gyrfalcons venture into the United States, including Maine, during the winter months. However, sightings of these majestic birds are considered rare and lucky due to their breeding range being in the Arctic.
Peregrine Falcons are medium-sized falcons, measuring between 14.2-19.3 inches in length and weighing between 18.7-56.4 ounces. They have a dark back and head, a light chest, and streaked underparts. Peregrines have bright yellow coloring on their legs, around their eyes, and at the base of their beaks. Males and females have the same appearance.
Habitat and Behavior
Peregrine Falcons can be found throughout Maine, but they are commonly spotted along the coast. They travel through the state during migration, but some individuals also remain year-round. Peregrines are known for their incredible speed and agility, making them the fastest bird and animal on the planet. They can reach speeds of well over 200 mph when diving for prey. They primarily feed on birds, including pigeons, and bats and rodents. These falcons nest on cliff faces, often using abandoned nests of eagles, owls, or red-tailed hawks.
Most Peregrine Falcons in the United States migrate to arctic regions of Canada and Greenland each year to breed. Their name, “peregrine,” means wanderer or pilgrim, reflecting their widespread nature. However, due to pesticide poisoning, their populations in eastern North America were severely impacted in the past. Thankfully, they have made a strong comeback, and their numbers are now stable.
Maine is home to a diverse and fascinating array of falcons. The American Kestrel, Merlin, Gyrfalcon, and Peregrine Falcon each have their unique characteristics, habitats, and behaviors. Observing these magnificent birds of prey in their natural environment is a thrilling experience. Remember to respect their habitats and enjoy the opportunity to witness their beauty and adaptability.