Falcons in New Hampshire: 4 Types with Photos

The article “Falcons in New Hampshire: 4 Types with Photos” provides a fascinating overview of the four species of falcons found in the state. Falcons are unique birds of prey that differ from eagles, kites, and hawks in various ways, such as their hunting methods and physical characteristics. In New Hampshire, bird enthusiasts have the opportunity to spot American Kestrels, Merlins, Gyrfalcons, and Peregrine Falcons. Each species has its own distinct features, behaviors, and habitats. From the smallest falcon, the American Kestrel, to the powerful and swift Peregrine Falcon, this article highlights the remarkable traits of these birds, making it an informative and captivating read for nature lovers.

Falcons in New Hampshire

Falcons are fascinating birds of prey that can be found in various regions around the world. In the state of New Hampshire, there are four specific types of falcons that grace the skies with their presence. These falcons each have their unique characteristics, habitats, and behaviors. In this article, we will explore the American Kestrel, Merlin, Gyrfalcon, and Peregrine Falcon in detail, providing you with a comprehensive understanding of these magnificent birds.

Introduction to Falcons

Falcons belong to the family of raptors, which includes eagles, kites, and hawks. However, they differ from these other birds in several significant ways. Unlike their counterparts, falcons hunt and kill their prey using their beaks rather than their talons. They are also known for their remarkable speed, agility, and ability to catch birds mid-flight. Falcons tend to have longer wings, allowing them to soar through the sky with incredible grace and precision.

Falcons in New Hampshire: 4 Types with Photos

American Kestrel

Scientific Name: Falco tinnunculus

The American Kestrel is the smallest falcon species found in North America. While they may be small in size, they are fierce predators capable of taking down birds larger than themselves. Their diet primarily consists of insects and invertebrates, such as grasshoppers, beetles, cicadas, dragonflies, moths, and spiders. Additionally, they also feed on small rodents, bats, lizards, frogs, and songbirds.

These falcons have unique coloring, with rusty browns and bluish grays adorning their feathers. Both male and female American Kestrels have black barring on their back and two black stripes on their face. Females are mostly rusty colored, while males have bluish-gray on their head and wings. They are commonly found perching on fence posts and telephone wires, especially around farmland.

The American Kestrel can be spotted year-round in New Hampshire.

Falcons in New Hampshire: 4 Types with Photos


Scientific Name: Falco columbarius

Merlins are another small falcon species that can be found in New Hampshire, although they are more commonly seen during spring and fall migration. These falcons primarily feed on other birds, showcasing their high-speed attack and remarkable hunting skills. They are known to hunt house sparrows, dickcissels, sandpipers, and other shorebirds. They have even been observed hunting large flocks of birds in pairs.

Compared to the American Kestrel, Merlins are slightly larger with a stocky body and a squarish head. Their coloring can range from gray to brown, with a heavily streaked chest and belly. When in flight, they display heavy barring on the underside of their wings.

Merlins can be found throughout North America, but they are constantly on the move, making them challenging to spot. Keep an eye out near forest edges and on low perches in open grasslands for a chance to catch a glimpse of these elusive falcons.

Falcons in New Hampshire: 4 Types with Photos


Scientific Name: Falco rusticolus

Gyrfalcons are majestic falcons that breed around the Arctic circle and venture further south into Canada during the winter. While they are considered rare sightings in New Hampshire, the northern half of the state offers the best chance of spotting them. Gyrfalcons come in 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 a dark back and head, either solid or with white banding.

In their breeding range, Gyrfalcons rely mainly on ptarmigan and seabirds for food. During the winter, if they venture into the U.S., they search for areas with abundant food, such as coasts, grasslands, and river valleys. It is believed that Gyrfalcons mate for life and nest on cliffs or reuse the nests of ravens and eagles.

Falcons in New Hampshire: 4 Types with Photos

Peregrine Falcon

Scientific Name: Falco peregrinus

The Peregrine Falcon is a widely distributed falcon species, with a presence in most parts of New Hampshire throughout the year. However, they are also known to migrate during particular seasons, making the spring and fall the best times to catch a glimpse of them. Peregrines in the U.S. migrate to arctic regions of Canada and even Greenland each year to breed, living up to their name as wanderers and pilgrims.

These falcons are famous for their incredible speed, earning the title of the fastest bird and fastest animal on the planet. They can reach speeds of well over 200 mph when diving for prey. Peregrines mainly feed on birds, preying on almost any species they encounter. In urban settings, pigeons often make up a significant portion of their diet. They also consume bats and rodents.

Nesting on cliff faces, including steep ones like those found in the Grand Canyon, is a common behavior among Peregrine Falcons. They may also make use of abandoned nests of eagles, owls, or red-tailed hawks if cliffs are not available.

In conclusion, the four species of falcons found in New Hampshire offer a glimpse into the diverse world of these raptors. From the fierce American Kestrel to the elusive Merlin, the majestic Gyrfalcon to the speedy Peregrine Falcon, each species brings its unique qualities and adds to the beauty of the state’s avian population. Take the opportunity to observe and appreciate these incredible birds when you find yourself in the presence of these remarkable creatures.

Falcons in New Hampshire: 4 Types with Photos

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