The 7 Types of Falcons Found in the United States

Falcons, with their discerning eyes, remarkable hunting skills, and exceptional speeds, have long fascinated bird enthusiasts. In the United States, there are seven distinct types of falcons that capture the heart and imagination of those who encounter them. North America’s smallest falcon, the American Kestrel, showcases its vibrant plumage and agile flight. Merlins, known for their migratory patterns, traverse through the central and eastern regions of the country. Aplomado Falcons, found exclusively in Texas and New Mexico, face the threat of extinction, their limited presence highlighting the urgent need for conservation efforts. Gyrfalcons, hailing from the Arctic circle, make their way to the northern reaches of the U.S., while Peregrine Falcons embark on one of the most extensive migrations undertaken by any North American bird. Prairie Falcons, as their name suggests, thrive in western grasslands and fields. Lastly, Crested Caracaras add a touch of uniqueness, with their presence sporadically dotted across the U.S., alongside their notable range in Central America.

American Kestrel

The American Kestrel is North America’s smallest falcon. They have a distinctive appearance with their small size, long pointed wings, and barred markings on their feathers. The male American Kestrel has a vibrant blue-gray head and wings, while the female has a reddish-brown back and tail. Both genders have a white face with black markings and a reddish chest. These beautiful birds are known for their agility and speed in flight.

American Kestrels can be found in a variety of habitats across the United States, including open fields, grasslands, forests, and deserts. They are known to inhabit areas with both natural and man-made structures, such as old barns and telephone poles, which provide them with suitable nesting sites. These falcons are widespread throughout North America, from Alaska to Mexico.

In terms of behavior, American Kestrels are highly adaptable and can be both migratory and sedentary. They are solitary birds and are often seen perched on utility wires or hovering in mid-air while hunting. They primarily feed on small mammals, insects, and birds. With their excellent eyesight and hunting prowess, they can spot their prey from a distance and dive down to catch it with great precision.

Despite their widespread population, American Kestrels face certain conservation challenges. Loss of suitable nesting sites, pesticides affecting their food sources, and competition for nesting sites with European Starlings and House Sparrows are some of the threats they encounter. Conservation efforts to protect nesting sites and reduce pesticide use are crucial for the future well-being of these charming falcons.


Merlins are another type of falcon found in the United States. They are larger than the American Kestrel but still smaller than some of the other falcon species. Merlins have a compact body, short wings, and a long tail. They display a range of colors, ranging from dark gray to brown, with streaked breasts and pale underparts. These falcons are known for their quick and agile flight.

Unlike the American Kestrel, Merlins are migratory birds. They can be found in the central and eastern parts of the United States during the breeding season, but they migrate to the southern states, Mexico, and South America during the winter months. Merlins prefer open habitats such as grasslands, marshes, and forests.

Merlins are highly skilled hunters and have a diverse diet that includes small birds, insects, and sometimes small mammals. They use their speed and agility to chase down their prey and capture them in mid-air. They are often seen perched on tall trees or poles, scanning their surroundings for potential prey.

Despite their ability to adapt to different habitats, Merlins still face threats to their conservation. Loss and fragmentation of their habitat, as well as pesticide use, can negatively impact their populations. Conservation efforts focus on protecting their breeding grounds and educating the public about the importance of preserving these habitats.

Aplomado Falcons

Aplomado Falcons are a unique and specialized falcon species found only in Texas and New Mexico. They are medium-sized falcons with long wings and a long tail. Aplomado Falcons have a striking appearance, with their slate gray back, white underparts, and a distinctive black mustache mark on their faces. They are known for their agile flight and distinctive vocalizations.

These falcons have a limited habitat and distribution, primarily inhabiting coastal prairies, savannas, and grasslands. They rely on open areas with scattered trees or cacti for nesting and perching. Aplomado Falcons are considered an endangered species due to habitat loss, hunting, and predation by other raptors.

In terms of behavior, Aplomado Falcons are highly territorial and form monogamous pairs during the breeding season. They build nests on the ground or on tall structures such as power poles or trees. These falcons primarily feed on small birds, insects, and occasionally small mammals. They exhibit a unique hunting behavior called “stooping,” where they dive down from the sky to catch their prey in mid-air.

Conservation efforts have been implemented to protect and restore the habitat of Aplomado Falcons. Reintroduction programs and captive breeding have helped increase their population, but ongoing efforts are still needed to ensure their long-term survival.


Gyrfalcons are large and powerful falcons that breed around the Arctic circle and can be spotted in the northern parts of the United States. They are the largest falcon species and have a robust body, broad wings, and a long tail. Gyrfalcons come in a variety of color morphs, including white, gray, and black. These falcons are known for their adaptability to extreme cold climates and their impressive hunting skills.

During the breeding season, Gyrfalcons inhabit rugged and remote areas such as tundra, cliffs, and mountains. However, they are known to migrate to more southern regions during the non-breeding season, including some parts of the United States. Gyrfalcons are highly sought after by birdwatchers and falconers due to their rarity and beauty.

Gyrfalcons breed during the summer months and build large nests on cliff ledges or on top of tall structures such as trees or utility poles. They primarily feed on medium-sized birds and small mammals, using their speed and agility to capture their prey. Gyrfalcons are known for their ability to stoop at high speeds, reaching incredible velocities during their hunting dives.

Although Gyrfalcons are not currently listed as a threatened species, they face certain conservation concerns. Climate change and habitat loss in their breeding areas could impact their populations in the long run. Conservation efforts focus on monitoring their populations and protecting their breeding habitats.

Peregrine Falcons

Peregrine Falcons are one of the most well-known and widely distributed falcon species in the world. They are medium-sized falcons with a powerful build, long pointed wings, and a barred underbelly. Peregrine Falcons exhibit sexual dimorphism, with the females being larger than the males. These falcons are known for their high-speed aerial hunting and long-distance migrations.

Peregrine Falcons have one of the longest migrations of any bird in North America. They breed in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions during the summer months and migrate south for the winter. They can be found in a variety of habitats, including cliffs, mountains, coastal areas, and urban environments. Peregrine Falcons have adapted well to urban areas, nesting on skyscrapers and other tall structures.

These falcons are incredibly agile and have unparalleled hunting skills. They feed primarily on medium-sized birds, using their speed and aerial maneuvers to pursue and capture their prey. Peregrine Falcons are known for their impressive hunting technique called “stooping,” where they dive at high speeds to strike their prey in mid-air.

Conservation efforts have greatly benefited Peregrine Falcons, as they were once severely endangered due to the use of pesticides such as DDT. The ban on DDT and captive breeding programs have helped restore their populations. However, ongoing conservation efforts focus on monitoring their populations and protecting their nesting sites.

Prairie Falcons

Prairie Falcons are medium-sized falcons that prefer grasslands and fields in the western half of the United States. They have a compact body, long pointed wings, and a short tail. Prairie Falcons display a range of color variations, including brown, gray, and tan. They have a distinctive facial pattern with a dark mustache mark and pale cheeks. These falcons are known for their swift flight and hunting skills.

In terms of habitat, Prairie Falcons can be found in open grassy areas, deserts, and agricultural fields. They are adaptable birds and can also inhabit cliffs and rocky areas for nesting. Prairie Falcons have a wide distribution, ranging from the southwestern states to the northern Great Plains.

Prairie Falcons are adept hunters and feed on a variety of prey, including small mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects. They use their speed and maneuverability to chase down their prey and capture it on the ground or in mid-air. These falcons are often seen perched on tall structures or rock outcroppings, scanning the surroundings for potential prey.

While Prairie Falcons are not currently listed as a threatened species, habitat loss and disturbance can impact their populations. Conservation efforts aim to preserve their grassland habitats and promote sustainable land management practices.

Crested Caracaras

Crested Caracaras are unique falcons found in Central America and spotty areas of the United States. They have a medium-sized body, broad wings, and a long tail. Crested Caracaras are easily recognizable with their distinctive appearance, including a black crest on their head, white neck, and a striking black and white pattern on their body. They are known for their scavenging behaviors and adaptability.

These falcons primarily inhabit open areas such as grasslands, savannas, and wetlands. They can also be found near coastal areas and agricultural fields. Crested Caracaras have a fragmented distribution within the United States, mainly in Texas and Florida.

Crested Caracaras exhibit social behavior and often form small family groups. They are opportunistic feeders and have a diverse diet that includes carrion, insects, reptiles, and small mammals. These falcons are known to scavenge for food and are often seen near roadkill or refuse sites.

Conservation efforts for Crested Caracaras focus on protecting their habitats and reducing disturbance. These falcons are considered a species of concern in some areas due to habitat loss and human-driven activities. By promoting conservation awareness and preserving their natural habitat, Crested Caracaras can continue to thrive in their unique ecosystems.

In conclusion, falcons are a diverse group of birds known for their keen eyesight, hunting prowess, and fast speeds. The American Kestrel, Merlins, Aplomado Falcons, Gyrfalcons, Peregrine Falcons, Prairie Falcons, and Crested Caracaras each have their own unique physical characteristics, habitat preferences, and hunting behaviors. Understanding and protecting these magnificent birds is essential for the overall conservation of bird species and their habitats in the United States.

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