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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Prairie Falcon -- Falco mexicanus

RANGE: Breeds from southeastern British Columbia, southern Alberta, southern Saskatchewan, and northern North Dakota south to Baja California, New Mexico, and northern Texas. Winters from the breeding range in southern Canada south to Mexico.

STATUS: Locally common.

HABITAT: Inhabits prairies, deserts, riverine escarpments, canyons, foothills, and mountains in relatively arid western regions. Occupies open, treeless terrain that accommodates its low-level style of hunting. Wintering birds are found away from the breeding areas in intermontane valleys and on the Great Plains.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Suitable nesting sites on cliffs in open country free of human disturbance.

NEST: Nests on cliffs, from low rock outcrops of 30 feet to vertical cliffs 400 feet high. Prefers cliffs with a sheltered ledge with loose debris or gravel for a nest scrape, overlooking treeless country for hunting. Also nests in larger caves in cliffs and vertical or columnar cracks with lodged material. Sometimes uses old nests of ravens, hawks, or eagles.

FOOD: Typically hunts from perches or in low, rapid, searching flight, usually capturing prey on or near the ground. Feeds on a variety of prey including ducks, prairie chickens, quail, pigeons, doves, sparrows and other small birds, prairie dogs, mice, ground squirrels, young rabbits, grasshoppers, and lizards.

REFERENCES: Enderson 1964, Evans 1982, Heintzelman 1979, McAtee 1935, Snow 1974b, Sprunt 1955, Terres 1980.

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