South Dakota
Birds and Birding
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Prairie Falcon

Falco mexicanus

Length: 16 - 18 inches Wingspan: 42 inches Seasonality: All Seasons
ID Keys: Brown upperparts, pale underparts with brown spots, dark whiskers under eyes, dark mark at base of wing is evident in flight

Prairie Falcon - Falco mexicanusSimilar in size to the Peregrine Falcon, the Prairie Falcon is a fairly common resident of open spaces in the Western U.S.  While most commonly found in open grasslands of the West, they have adapted to a human presence by sometimes frequenting urban areas during the winter, taking advantage of the steady of supply of "urbanized" birds.

Habitat: Primarily found in arid to semi-arid open areas such as grassland and rangeland, deserts, and above tree-line in mountainous parts of the west.  Not commonly found near developed areas in the summer, some may winter near urban centers to take advantage of common residential birds.

Diet: Primarily small mammals and small birds.  Can feed on birds up to the size of prairie chickens, and on mammals as large as jackrabbits.  Will also feed on large insects, lizards, and snakes.

Behavior: Will hunt from a perch, swooping down for prey, or often by flying low over the ground, surprising prey.  Males perform a wide variety of acrobatic flight displays during courtship. 

Nesting: April through July

Breeding Map: Breeding bird survey map

Song: Alarm call of a sharp ree-kree-kree-kree. 

Migration: Primarily a permanent resident, but some move short distances to the south in the winter.

Similar Species: Merlin, Peregrine Falcon

Conservation Status: Some indications of sharp declines near developed areas, but otherwise stable.

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Prairie Falcon

2) Cornell University's "All About Birds - Prairie Falcon"

3) Prairie Falcon

Photo Information: February 16th, 2004 -- Near Kennebec -- Terry L. Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Prairie Falcon photos.


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Prairie Falcon - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Uncommon migrant and full-time resident in the western half of the state, rare migrant and winter visitor in the eastern half.