4 Different Types of Falcons in Florida

This article will go through the several types of falcons found throughout Florida. Hopefully, you’ll acquire some knowledge about recognizing them and discover some interesting things! (Don’t panic, no crossbred birds will be present.)

Falcons may be identified by their sharp wings, powerful chests, and twisted beak. The name “falcon” originated from the word “falcate” which means “sickle-shaped” and refers to their curved wing outlines.

They are powerful birds of prey because they are great flyers and predators.

Humans had historically utilized falcons for hunting due to their agility and superb scavenging abilities, giving rise to the name and sport falconry.

They were traditionally worn by nobility and remain extremely costly, costing several thousand dollars today. Crossbreeding is common in the falconry industry, making it difficult to recognize runaway birds.

ImageName
American KestrelAmerican Kestrel
MerlinMerlin
Peregrine FalconPeregrine Falcon
Crested CaracaraCrested Caracara

Types of Falcons in Florida

Falcons are frequently assumed to be linked to certain other prey birds, including hawks, however current genetic research suggests that they are strongly related to parrots, indicating that both falcons and parrots have a common root alongside songbirds! Isn’t the realm of taxonomy and evolution strange?

Perhaps because of their resemblance to songbirds, falcons frequently consume them during flight. They chase them from behind, driving them toward the sky to stress them out before plunging down on the exhausted bird.

Their incredible speed makes them virtually hard to outfly. Typically falcons try to catch early in the day and late in the night, during the same intervals as songbird choruses and when they are especially active.

Enough chit-chat… Let’s have a look at the different varieties of falcons found across Florida!

1. American Kestrel

American kestrels

American Kestrels, North America’s tiniest falcon, are also among the most beautiful. Males possess grey-blue wings with black striping and a fiery orange back.

The tail is reddish-orange, having black tips as well. The whitish abdomen is tinged with orange and dotted with little black polka dots.

Females have a reddish-orange upper body with black banding mostly on the tail and wings. Their pale abdomen lacks the markings that males possess and instead features orange striping.

Both males and females get a grey crown with a small orange spot on top) as well as black bands on the edges of their faces. Because of their arrangement, the streaks are commonly referred to as ” sideburns ” and “mustaches.” 

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Scientific Name Falco sparverius
Weight 2.8 to 5.8 ounces
Length 8.7 to 12.2 inches
Wingspan 20.1 to 24.0 inches

Habitat & Food

When they’re on the field, these birds could be spotted pouncing on telephone lines and wooden poles, keeping a look out for small animals, reptiles, and insects to catch.

They must also remain on the lookout for predatory animals, as they are frequently prey for larger birds of prey like owls, crows, hawks, and also snakes.

The bulk of Florida is home to American Kestrels all year. During the cold season, migrants may also be seen near the state’s southernmost tip.

Since females travel first, they normally occupy all accessible habitats, while males prefer more forested locations. These birds live within cavities and will nest in bird boxes if they’re awake at the right moment.

2. Merlin

Merlin

Merlins are identical to American Kestrels, however bigger and more compacted, having broader wings and shorter tails.

Merlins possess different color variants throughout the nation, with the “taiga” variety found in populations that winter across Florida.

The “taiga” birds are really the tiniest and most splotchy of the varieties. Males possess blue-grey backs and wings. The tail is colored grey with thick black bars.

Their stomachs are whitishly featuring dark streaks. Females are deliciously salty brown on the outside with dark streaks on the abdomen. On the tail, they possess black and buffy bands.

Scientific name Falco columbarius
Weight 5.6 to 8.6 ounces
Length 9.5 to 11.8 inches
Wingspan 20.8 to 26.8 inches

Wintering migrants may be found across the state of Florida. They are most frequent by the shore, although they may also be spotted in meadows and open woodlands.

These fast-moving birds could be observed flying through the air pursuing a songbird or shorebird or sitting on the treetops. Unless they are perched, keep your eyes peeled since Merlin is rapid and covers a large area.

Because European noblewomen employed Merlin to hunt Sky Larks, medieval falconers dubbed them “lady hawks.” Katharine the Great and Mary Queen of Scots also utilized these sporting birds.

Even nowadays, falconers utilize Merlin to hunt a wide range of birds, from little and sparrow-sized to huge and dove-sized.

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Food

These birds eat a wide variety of foods. Reptiles, voles, moths, dragonflies, and bats are examples. They do, however, frequently prey on smaller birds, including pipits, sparrows, larks, and sandpipers.

Merlins do not construct their own nests. Rather, they re-use nests that the other birds previously left. They like nests that have been vacated by jays, hawks, magpies, and crows.

3. Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrines feature dark, slate-colored upper back and white underparts with abdomen striping. Their solemn expressions are characterized by golden eyes, black mustaches, as well as white face patches.

Their legs are extensively feathered, and at the base is a huge rear talon that may kill prey on impact when used in conjunction with the power of their dive.

These big falcons, traditionally known as “Duck Hawks,” are vicious and lightning swift. Their wings stretch nearly to the tip of their tail, propelling them into the air and snatching birds away from the sky.

One has been reported reaching 247 miles per hour!

Scientific name Falco peregrinus
Weight 18.8 to 56.4 ounces
Length 14.2 to 19.4 inches
Wingspan 39.3 to 43.4 inches

Peregrines spend the winter season around Florida, where they may be found near beaches and in towns. They were listed as endangered animals in the 1970s owing to pesticide-related population reduction.

It was a treat to even witness one throughout this time period. Numbers are suddenly skyrocketing; a location in the Florida Keys suddenly reports nearly 350 sightings per day during certain days.

Their main source of food is birds that they grab in flight. They have been observed consuming 450 different bird species throughout North America.

Because they are found on each and every continent except Antarctica, this number increases to over 2000 bird species as prey.

Food

They aren’t turned off by size either. They have already been reported preying on both large birds (such as Sandhill Cranes) and tiny birds (like a hummingbird). They also consume gulls, bats, ducks, pigeons, songbirds, and seafood.

4. Crested Caracara

Crested Caracara

The Crested Caracara is distinct from any other falcon species throughout Florida. They are also most widespread across Central America but are also discovered in a few places in the United States, including Florida.

As per allaboutbirds.org, they are found exclusively in a tiny region of Central Florida around Orlando.

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With their big, pointed claws and orange faces, Crested Caracaras resemble a cross between a hawk and a vulture. They are somewhat bigger than Peregrine Falcons.

Scientific name Caracara plancus
Weight 37.1 to 45.9 ounces
Length 19.2 to 22.9 inches
Wingspan 48.3 to 49.5 inches

Crested Caracaras species omnivores that mostly eat on carrion. They are frequently observed sitting high up on tree branches, but they may sometimes be found on the ground and devouring roadkill as well as other dead animals.

This might clarify their vulture-like appearance. These birds might also hunt their own prey, which may include smaller birds, fish, skunks, snakes, rabbits, and sometimes even baby bird eggs.

Conclusion

Three common falcon species are present throughout Florida, usually during the winter season, and one unusual falcon species, the Crested Caracara. You ought to be fortunate to see Peregrine falcons, Merlins, and American Kestrels if you go bird observing.

Merlins and Peregrine falcons travel to Florida throughout the wintertime, but American Kestrels may be spotted across the state all year.

FAQ

Is there a falcon population in Florida?

They may be located throughout North America and have acclimated to living in cities, suburbs, and rural locations. Peregrine falcons do not nest within Florida, however, they can be spotted during periodic migrations in the fall.

What is the appearance of a Florida falcon?

They are much lighter than Peregrine falcons but somewhat larger than American Kestrels. Their distinctive characteristics include: The color of the male and female in this subspecies varies greatly.

Males possess silver-gray plumage on their backs and the tops of their heads, while females feature dark brown plumage.

What distinguishes a hawk from a falcon?

The striping on the abdomen of falcons extends all the way towards the base, while hawks get a white band there at the bottom.

When they are in normal flight, and you’re able to observe their wingspan, it is one of the simplest ways to distinguish the two different species apart. Hawk wings feature ‘fingers’ on the tips, but falcon wings are slim and pointy.

What is the most frequent type of falcon?

Peregrine falcons are one of the numerous prey birds in the globe, and they may be found on all continents except Antarctica.

Last Updated on August 23, 2022 by Lily Aldrin

About Lily Aldrin

I am Lily Aldrin. I attended Cornell University, where I obtained my degree to become an Ornithologist so I could pursue my love of these magnificent creatures in and out of their natural habitats.