SMALL FALCONS

AMERICAN KESTREL
AMERICAN KESTREL

The American Kestrel is a falcon, also been known as a sparrow hawk because of its small size. They are the smallest and most common falcon in North America. They are around nine inches tall with a wingspan of 22 inches. Their most distinguishing feature is two narrow, vertical black facial markings on each side of the head. Most other falcons have only one. They are found in many habitats such as grasslands, meadows, deserts, as well as suburban and urban areas. They hunt by hovering in the air with rapid wing beats or by perching while looking for prey. The kestrel will bob its head and tail, then make a direct line towards the prey, they will grab with their talons when they hit the ground. They eat grasshoppers, lizards, mice or small birds. One afternoon I watched an American Kestrel flying around in a field, after each pass he landed on a telephone wire. This gave me a chance to really see his stark markings. A fast flyer and at one point I saw him dive towards the ground and pick something up.

MERLIN-PRAIRIE SUBSPECIES
MERLIN-PRAIRIE SUBSPECIES

 

The Merlin is another small falcon around ten inches tall with a wingspan of 24 inches. They are also known as a pigeon hawk because that is roughly the size of a pigeon. They have a white eyebrow and a less distinct mustache than other falcons. They are grayish on their back with bold black tail bands. The Prairie subspecies is paler in color and the mustache is barely visible. The Coastal Pacific subspecies is almost black and lacks eyebrow stripe. They have a very high pitched rapid kee-kee-kee-kee call, I was hearing a Merlin over a couple of days and found this one perched on this snag with a mouse in his talon. He sat there for a bit while I took his picture, this is the prairie sub-species.

 

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