Falcons in Tennessee: A Look at the 3 Species with Photos

“Falcons in Tennessee: A Look at the 3 Species with Photos” provides readers with an overview of the three species of falcons found in Tennessee. The article explains that falcons are birds of prey and their distinct characteristics that set them apart from eagles, kites, and hawks. It highlights the unique hunting technique of falcons, which involves killing their prey with their beaks rather than their talons. The article goes on to explore the three species of falcons found in Tennessee: the American Kestrel, Merlin, and Peregrine Falcon. Each species is described in detail, including their physical characteristics, feeding habits, and migration patterns. With captivating photos and interesting facts, this article offers a fascinating glimpse into the world of falcons in Tennessee.

Falcons in Tennessee: A Look at the 3 Species with Photos

Falcons are magnificent birds of prey that captivate people with their speed and agility. In Tennessee, there are three species of falcons that can be spotted – the American Kestrel, Merlin, and Peregrine Falcon. Let’s take a closer look at each species and learn more about their characteristics, habits, and conservation status.

1. American Kestrel

Scientific Name: Falco tinnunculus

The American Kestrel is North America’s smallest falcon, but don’t let its size fool you. These fierce predators can take down birds larger than themselves. They primarily feed on insects and invertebrates such as grasshoppers, beetles, cicadas, and moths, but they are also known to eat mice, small rodents, bats, lizards, frogs, and even songbirds.

American Kestrels have a unique coloring with rusty browns and bluish grays. Both males and females 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.

During the summer, you can spot American Kestrels perching on fence posts and telephone wires, especially around farmland. They have the ability to hover in place, scanning the ground below, and their presence can be seen throughout Tennessee year-round.

2. Merlin

Scientific Name: Falco columbarius

Merlins are another type of falcon that can be found in Tennessee. They are slightly larger than American Kestrels and have a stocky body and squarish head. Merlins are known for their high-speed attacks, zooming across the ground and chasing their prey from below, forcing them higher and higher until they get tired. They primarily feed on other birds, such as house sparrows, dickcissels, and sandpipers.

These falcons have a heavily streaked chest and belly, although their coloring can vary from gray to brown depending on their geographic location. In flight, they have heavily barred wings. Merlins are widespread raptors and can be found in some capacity throughout North America.

If you want to spot a Merlin in Tennessee, keep an eye out near forest edges and on low perches in open grasslands. They are usually on the move, stalking sparrows and other small birds, making them a challenge to spot.

3. Peregrine Falcon

Scientific Name: Falco peregrinus

Peregrine Falcons are known for their incredible speed and agility. They are mainly seen in Tennessee during spring and fall migrations, as they travel to their breeding grounds in Canada. Peregrines are also the fastest birds and animals on the planet, reaching speeds of well over 200 mph when diving for prey.

These falcons have a dark back and head, with a light chest and streaked underparts. They have bright yellow coloring on their legs, around their eyes, and at the base of their beak. Peregrines mainly feed on birds, and almost any species is on their menu. In urban settings, pigeons can be a significant part of their diet. They also eat bats and rodents.

Peregrine Falcons are known for nesting on cliff faces, including incredibly steep ones like those found in the Grand Canyon. If cliffs are not available, they may use abandoned eagle, owl, or red-tailed hawk nests. Due to pesticide poisoning, their population in eastern North America was severely affected in the mid-20th century. However, they have made a strong comeback and are now listed as a species of least concern.

To catch a glimpse of a Peregrine Falcon in Tennessee, make sure to be on the lookout during their migratory seasons. Their wanderer nature takes them to various parts of the state, adding to the excitement of spotting these magnificent birds.


In Tennessee, bird enthusiasts can delight in the presence of three species of falcons – the American Kestrel, Merlin, and Peregrine Falcon. Each species possesses unique characteristics and behaviors that make them worthy of admiration. From the American Kestrel’s small but fierce nature to the Merlin’s high-speed attacks, and the Peregrine Falcon’s unmatched speed, these falcons offer a remarkable sight in the Tennessee landscape.

Whether perched on fences and wires, stalking prey in open grasslands, or soaring through the skies, these falcons grace the state with their presence. While they may face certain challenges in terms of conservation, their populations are stable, and every sighting is a testament to the efforts to protect these magnificent creatures. So, keep your eyes peeled and your binoculars ready for the chance to spot one of these falcons in Tennessee.

Nature Blog Network

NatureBlogNetwork.com is the leading birding research and information website. Serving the birding community since 2010.

Recent Posts