Falcons in Colorado are an impressive sight to behold. In this article, readers will explore the four species of falcons found in Colorado, including the American Kestrel, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, and Prairie Falcon. They will learn about the unique characteristics of each species, their migratory patterns, and where and when to spot them. From the small but fierce American Kestrel to the lightning-fast Peregrine Falcon, these raptors are a testament to the beauty and diversity of Colorado’s wildlife. So grab your binoculars and get ready to witness the majesty of these incredible birds in the wild.
Falcons Found in Colorado
Colorado is home to four species of falcons: the American Kestrel, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, and Prairie Falcon. These majestic birds of prey can be spotted throughout the state, each with its own unique characteristics and habits. In this article, we will explore each falcon species in detail, including their description, habitat and range, feeding habits, appearance, and where to spot them. So, let’s dive in and learn more about these fascinating birds!
Description: The American Kestrel is the smallest falcon in North America, measuring between 8.7 and 12.2 inches in length and weighing 2.8 to 5.8 ounces. Despite its petite size, the American Kestrel is a fierce predator, capable of taking down birds larger than itself. These falcons primarily feed on insects and invertebrates but also consume small mammals and other birds.
Habitat and Range: American Kestrels can be found throughout Colorado all year round, although some individuals from southern regions may migrate north to breed. They are adaptable birds that inhabit a variety of habitats, including grasslands, open fields, agricultural areas, and urban parks.
Feeding Habits: As mentioned earlier, American Kestrels primarily feed on insects and invertebrates. They are skilled hunters, often seen perched on fence posts or telephone wires, scanning the ground for their next meal. Kestrels have keen eyesight and impressive maneuverability, allowing them to spot and capture prey with precision.
Appearance: Male American Kestrels have striking blue wings and brown spots, while females have a mix of buff, brown, and black feathers. Both males and females have dark vertical stripes on their heads and exhibit beautiful markings.
Where to Spot: To catch a glimpse of an American Kestrel, head to rural areas or open landscapes such as grasslands, where these falcons are most active. Keep an eye out for them perched on fence posts or telephone wires, where they often hunt and rest.
Description: The Merlin falcon is slightly larger than the American Kestrel, measuring between 9.4 and 11.8 inches in length and weighing 5.6 to 8.5 ounces. These falcons are migratory birds, flying to Canada to breed each year. They primarily feed on other birds and are known for their agile hunting style.
Habitat and Range: Merlins can be found throughout Colorado during the winter and non-breeding season. They inhabit a range of habitats, including forests, open grasslands, and forest edges. Merlins are highly adaptable and can be found in various parts of North America.
Feeding Habits: Merlins rely on their speed and agility to hunt other birds, often in pairs. They are highly effective hunters, using their stealth and precision to capture prey in mid-air. When not in flight, Merlins can be seen perched high in the treetops, contemplating their next meal.
Appearance: Female Merlins are larger than males, and both sexes boast a beautiful combination of dark and light feathers. They have compact bodies, long wings, and relatively short tail feathers.
Where to Spot: To increase your chances of spotting a Merlin, keep an eye out near forest edges and open grasslands. These falcons are often on the move, seeking out small birds to prey upon. You may spot them in flight or perched on low branches.
Description: Known for their incredible speed, Peregrine Falcons are medium-sized falcons, measuring between 14.2 and 19.3 inches in length and weighing 18.7 to 56.4 ounces. They have a distinctive stoop or dive when hunting, reaching speeds of over 200 mph.
Habitat and Range: Peregrine Falcons have a year-round range in western Colorado and migrate to eastern parts of the state for breeding. Many individuals travel to arctic regions in Canada and Greenland to breed. These falcons can be found in various national parks in the United States, including the Great Smoky Mountains, Yellowstone, Acadia, Rocky Mountain, and Zion.
Feeding Habits: Peregrine Falcons feed primarily on other birds, using their incredible speed and agility to catch them mid-flight. They are adept hunters, capable of adjusting their flight path and speed to outmaneuver their prey. Peregrine Falcons have made a remarkable comeback after their population was nearly eradicated due to pesticides in the mid-20th century.
Appearance: Peregrine Falcons have a sleek and streamlined appearance, with long, pointed wings and a distinctive black hood on their head. Their plumage varies with age, but they generally display a combination of gray, black, and white feathers.
Where to Spot: To spot Peregrine Falcons, head to areas with cliff faces or high vantage points, as these birds prefer elevated perches. Keep an eye out for their remarkable stoops, where they dive at high speeds to catch their prey.
Description: The Prairie Falcon is slightly larger than the Merlin, measuring between 14.6 and 18.5 inches in length and weighing 14.8 to 38.8 ounces. These falcons prefer wide-open spaces like grasslands and fields, where they can soar high overhead in search of their next meal.
Habitat and Range: Prairie Falcons can be found throughout Colorado and the western half of the United States. They inhabit a variety of open habitats, including grasslands, deserts, and agricultural areas.
Feeding Habits: Prairie Falcons primarily feed on small mammals and other birds. Their hunting style involves high-soaring flights and spectacular dives to capture prey. These falcons are highly skilled hunters, using their speed and agility to secure their meals.
Appearance: Prairie Falcons have brown feathers that provide them some camouflage in their grassland habitats. They have streamlined bodies, long wings, and a heavy chest.
Where to Spot: To catch a glimpse of a Prairie Falcon, scan the skies above grasslands or open fields. They can often be seen soaring overhead or perched on fence posts or cliffs. Binoculars or a spotting scope can greatly enhance your chances of spotting these magnificent birds.
In conclusion, Colorado is home to four species of falcons: the American Kestrel, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, and Prairie Falcon. Each species exhibits unique characteristics in terms of their description, habitat and range, feeding habits, appearance, and where to spot them. Whether you’re a passionate bird watcher or simply interested in learning more about these fascinating creatures, exploring Colorado’s falcon species is a rewarding experience. So, grab your binoculars and head out into the wild to witness the beauty and grace of these majestic birds of prey in action!