The Living Desert
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Prairie Falcon

Falco mexicanus


Falconidae, the falcon family

Conservation Status:

Least Concern IUCN.


Western North America


Dry, open country, deserts and grasslands, resides in steep canyon areas, while foraging out over the low desert.


They circle high over their prey, dive down like a bullet (reportedly up to 150 mph) then level off, speeding low over the ground to strike the prey. If the force of the strike does not kill it, a swift bite to the neck, snapping the spine will be effective.

Sometimes called the “desert falcon”, these crow-sized birds have gray-brown heads and backs, creamy white breasts with streaking below, dark-brown “falcon teardrops” below their eyes, distinct white lines above their eyes and long, pointed wings. In flight, black patches in their “armpit” feathers become visible. Their flight is direct, fast and choppy–alternating short, powerful wing beats with a glide. Females are a third larger than males.

These diurnal predators feed mainly on ground squirrels, but sometimes birds, lizards and insects. Being at the top of the food chain, their only adversary is man.

Their courtship includes spectacular aerial displays. Nests are usually bare scrapes on a high cliff ledge where females incubate 3-5 eggs while males hunt for food to feed their young. When the young are old enough to be left alone at the nest, both parents hunt for them.


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