Essay

6 Falcons in Arizona: How to Identify Them and Where They Live

Two notable features of the scenic state of Arizona in the southwest of the United States are its varied wildlife and the Grand Canyon. When we think of the Copper State, images of steep cliffs and desert vistas, as well as javelinas, rattlesnakes, and Gila monsters, come to mind. But when we think of our feathered friends in Arizona, we think of the peculiar desert bird known as the roadrunner, which used to be most famous for its Saturday morning skirmishes with the coyote. There are numerous species of desert-dwelling birds, including six different kinds of falcons in Arizona, and there are some quite unique methods to recognize them and their locations.

Peregrine Falcon

The Peregrine falcon is the most often sighted bird in Arizona, and it may be found all around the state. Since these magnificent birds prefer the city, locating their residence is frequently not too difficult. Because they frequently nest on the sides of towering buildings, peregrine falcons are easily visible, and some people even mistake them for celebrities!

The most popular places to find these falcons are in Arizona and farther south into Mexico. With the exception of Antarctica, all continents are home to them. The Peregrine falcon is the quickest animal on Earth, which is astounding. These animals are capable of diving at above 190 mph (300 km/h)!

Identify Peregrine Falcons in Arizona

The female Peregrine falcon is larger than the male, as are the majority of the falcon species on this list. Their looks don’t really differ from one another, though. Most noticeably, the wings and backs of males and females may have light barring over slate gray or bluish-black. Younger Peregrine falcons normally have significantly browner breasts, however they are usually white or tan with prominent thin dark lines.

A Peregrine falcon’s typical height is 15-20 inches, and its wingspan is 38–44 inches. Adults are distinguished by the appearance of “side-burns” that extend down from their eyes and by a distinctive dark hood.

American Kestrel

Although the American Kestrel can be found all across the country, Arizona may be the region where you see them the most frequently. The American Kestrel can live anywhere because of its extremely varied food, which includes insects, small rodents, and other birds. From middle Alaska to the southernmost tip of South America, these falcons can be found almost anywhere. Being the tiniest falcons in Arizona, it can be challenging to notice them.

The American Kestrel, also referred to as “sparrow hawks,” gets its nickname from frequently being spotted snatching sparrows out of the sky. It’s interesting to note that these falcons seem to be at ease in human presence. They are content to grow in trees in a variety of settings, such as parks, meadows, grasslands, deserts, and pastures.

Identify the American Kestrel

The American Kestrel is a smaller bird of prey, measuring 9 to 12 inches in length and 20 to 24 inches in width at the wings. The color of American Kestrel falcons varies between male and female, unlike Peregrine falcons. Females typically have brownish banding on their backs and rusty-colored wings. Their bellies are usually buff or tan with dark stripes. In contrast, males have white bellies and either blue or grey wings. They do, however, have rust-colored backs with black bars running along the lower portion of them. The heads of both sexes are white with grayish-blue crowns.

Prairie Falcon

In Arizona, prairie falcons are seen all over the state. More specifically, pastures, farm fields, meadows, and shrubby deserts are the usual habitats of these magnificent raptors. Remember that if there are too many trees, the number of Prairie falcons will decrease significantly. These raptors can be found almost anywhere in the western half of the United States, as well as in some areas of Mexico and Canada, outside of the Grand Canyon State.

How to Identify a Prairie Falcon

Given how both species resemble one other in appearance and that their common ancestor lived about four million years ago, it should come as no surprise! But because they weigh significantly less than their cousin, prairie falcons need far less food. They usually have a pale brown back that resembles the segments of a turtle shell. At the tail, though, their color is considerably paler. The white chests, simple white necks, and vertical dark brown stripes of prairie falcons. Usually, their faces are buff or tanned.

Merlin

There are plenty of these little, ferocious falcons in Grand Canyon State. However, it may be challenging to watch one because to their extremely variable range. Merlins are often seen in the northern Midwest of the United States and along the west coast of Canada, however they spend the winters in Arizona and the adjacent states. Their particular habitats are prairies, cemeteries, parks, shrublands, meadows, and areas close to rivers. It can be difficult to locate one in the wild, though, because they prefer to migrate and travel about a lot.

How to Identify a Merlin

Merlins are distinguished by their quick wingbeats in addition to their small size. Their length is approximately 9–13 inches, their weight is typically 4.4–10.6 ounces, and their wingspans are approximately 21–23 inches. Males typically have streaks of black and silver/gray on their backs and wings. Their chests are usually much lighter in color and have a hint of orange on them. But depending on their gender and range, their shade can change. Females usually have brownish-gray to dark-brown backs and are lighter overall. Frequently, their fronts are white with brown dots.

Crested Caracara

It could be difficult to spot a Crested Caracara in Arizona because they are primarily found in Mexico and South America. However, they are also observed in southern Arizona and, to be more precise, in Arizona’s earth. This is because they usually accompany vultures, biting at the recently deceased’s corpses, since their main food source is carrion. But the Crested Caracara also hunts live prey, including small mammals, reptiles, and insects.

Identifying the Crested Caracara

Because the Crested Caracara has so many distinguishing characteristics, it is not difficult to identify one. Their enormous, long legs and seemingly flat head are the easiest ways to identify them, even though their bodies are often dark brown or black in color. The cheeks and necks of crested caracaras are white, while the skin surrounding their faces is orange. Usually, the lengthy legs are yellow. Don’t be deceived by those who claim they resemble a hybrid of a vulture and a hawk.

Aplomado Falcon

There was a time when Arizona was home to these magnificent raptors. Unfortunately, because they are now endangered, finding them is becoming more difficult. Since the last few centuries, a large portion of land has been transformed to farms and pastures, which has negatively impacted the Aplomado falcon’s ability to survive. But thanks to the efforts of conservation organizations, the Aplomado falcon is once again reproducing and growing. They are seen throughout Mexico.

Identifying Aplomado Falcons

The Aplomado falcon is an amazing and vibrant bird of prey. With a wingspan of 30 to 36 inches and a length of about 14 to 18 inches, they are rather enormous. Their cheeks are either brown or white, and they frequently have bands over their eyes and black or dark brown heads. Find one, and it should be fairly easy to detect, with a dark brown to grayish back, wings, and a white or brown chest.

Type of Falcon Location
Peregrine Falcon All 7 Continents except Antarctica
American Kestrel From the southernmost tip of South America up to central Alaska
Prairie Falcon Western U.S., Mexico, and Canada
Merlin Northern Midwest U.S. and Canada’s west coast
Crested Caracara Arizona/Southern U.S., Mexico, and South America
Aplomado Falcon Arizona/Southern U.S. and Mexico