4 Amazing Falcons in Florida to spot

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Falcons in Florida

Falcons in Florida are some of the state’s most fascinating birds of prey. From the iconic Peregrine Falcon to the less well-known American Kestrel, falcons can be found soaring through the skies and perched atop tall trees or buildings throughout the state.

Residents can spot four species of falcons in the state of Florida throughout the year. The first species is more commonly observed than the last three, and Florida is home to the fastest bird in North America.

What are the most Common Falcons In Florida?

The most common falcons of Florida include the American Kestrel, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, and Crested Caracara.

Whether you’re a seasoned birdwatcher or a newcomer to the hobby, this post is sure to deepen your appreciation for the incredible falcons that call Florida home.

So grab your binoculars and get ready to take a closer look at these awe-inspiring birds of prey.

We have organized our list from most likely seen to the least likely to be seen for your convenience.

Florida Falcons

According to the latest data from ebird, there are four observed species of falcons in Florida. This data has been compiled from over 67,000 dedicated bird watchers throughout the state.

Here are some quick facts:

  • American Kestrels are the most common observed falcons in Florida
  • Crested Caracara’s are the least widely observed species in Florida
  • Crested Caracara’s are the largest in Florida
  • American Kestrels are the smallest falcons in Florida

4 Types Of Falcons In Florida

1. American Kestrel

The American Kestrel, also known as the Sparrow Hawk, is a small bird of prey found throughout North and South America, and is a year-round resident of Florida.

  • Length: 22-31cm (8.7-112.2 inches)
  • Weight: 80-165g (2.8-5.8oz)
  • Wingspan: 51-61cm (20-24 inches)
  • American Kestrel Scientific Name: Falco sparverius

Appearance

American Kestrels are one of the smallest falcon species, with a wingspan of around 2 feet. 

They have a distinctive pattern on their wings, with black stripes, spots on a rusty brown background, and two black facial stripes.

Male kestrels have bluish-gray wings, a rusty-red back, and rusty tail with a black band at the tip, and an apricot-colored underpart with dark spots.

Females are reddish-brown above and streaky red below, with black bands on their tails. 

Habitat

You can spot an American Kestrel in various habitats, including grasslands, open fields, and urban areas. They prefer areas with raised perches, such as telephone poles and fence posts.

Diet

American Kestrels feed on large insects, such as grasshoppers and beetles, small mammals, reptiles, and small birds

They hunt by watching from a high perch or hovering in mid-air, scanning the ground for prey, then diving down to catch it with their sharp talons.

Nesting

American Kestrels build nesting sites in empty tree cavities made by woodpeckers or other natural cavities but also use human made bird boxes. 

They typically lay 3-7 eggs, which both parents incubate for about a month. Both parents take turns hunting for food and feeding the chicks.

Interesting facts

  • American Kestrels are the smallest falcon species in North America.
  • These birds have a distinctive hunting technique, hovering mid-air before diving to catch their prey.
  • They are known for their bold and aggressive behavior, often attacking birds much larger than themselves.
  • These birds have excellent vision, can see ultraviolet light, and detect prey from a long distance.
  • American Kestrels are often used in falconry due to their small size and agility.

2. Merlin

The Merlin is a small, agile falcon found throughout the Northern Hemisphere and is a resident of Florida during the colder non-breeding season.

  • Length: 24-30cm (9.4-11.8 inches)
  • Weight: 160-240g (5.6-8.5oz)
  • Wingspan: 53-68cm (21-26.8 inches)
  • Merlin Scientific Name: Falco columbarius

Appearance

Merlin falcons are small, about the size of a pigeon, with a wingspan of around 2 feet. 

They have compact, muscular bodies with pointed wings and medium-length tails.

Adult males are slate-gray above, while females and juveniles have a brown and buff pattern. Below they are streaky brown with a dark tail with white bands.

Habitat

You can spot Merlins in various habitats, including coniferous forests, grasslands, and wetlands throughout North America. You can also see them hunting in urban areas like parks and gardens.

Diet

Merlins primarily feed on small birds, such as finches and sparrows, but also eat large insects, small rodents, bats, and reptiles

They hunt by flying low and fast, often catching their prey by surprise or chasing their prey through trees and over open ground. They are incredibly agile and will see their prey in mid-air.

Nesting

Merlins build their nesting sites in trees, often reusing old or abandoned nests from crows or hawks.

They typically lay 3-5 eggs, which the female mainly incubates for about a month. The male brings food and incubates the eggs while she eats.

Males typically bring food for the female and chicks, but the females feed their young.

Interesting facts

  • Merlins are known for their speed and agility, able to chase down and catch prey in mid-air and make sharp turns in pursuit.
  • Merlins are occasionally used in falconry due to their small size and hunting prowess.
  • In the UK, Merlins are known as “pigeon hawks” due to their habit of hunting pigeons.
  • Despite their small size, Merlins are known to be fiercely territorial and will defend their nest against much larger predators.

3. Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcons are incredible birds of prey known for their impressive speed and agility. They are a migratory species of falcons commonly found in Florida during the colder non-breeding season.

  • Length: 36-49cm (14-19 inches)
  • Weight: 530-1600g (18.6-56.4oz)
  • Wingspan: 100-110cm (39.4-43.3 inches)
  • Peregrine Falcon Scientific Name: Falco peregrinus

Appearance

Peregrine Falcons are medium-sized birds with long wings (up to 3 feet) and long tails.

They are blueish-gray above and white or cream-colored below, with black barring on their belly and sides. They have a distinctive black “mustache” mark on their face and a yellow eye ring.

One noticeable feature of Peregrines is when they are perched, their wings almost extend to the tip of the tail.

Habitat

You can find Peregrine Falcons in various habitats, including coastal cliffs, mountains, cities, open country, and other tall structures near water. 

People often see them perched on tall buildings, water towers, or bridges.

Diet

Peregrine Falcons feed primarily on other birds, such as pigeons, doves, small birds, and waterfowl. They can hunt birds as large as geese and as small as songbirds.

They hunt by diving from great heights, reaching speeds over 200 mph, and striking their prey in mid-air with their powerful talons.

They also fly level to the ground to catch prey by surprise.

Nesting

Peregrine Falcons use scrape to build their own nests on cliffs, buildings, or other high structures.

They typically lay 3-4 eggs, which the female incubates for about a month. Males hunt and bring food for the female and the young during the first couple weeks.

Interesting facts

  • The Peregrine Falcon is the fastest animal on Earth, capable of diving at speeds of over 200 mph.
  • These birds were once endangered due to pesticides such as DDT, which caused their eggshells to become too thin to support the developing embryo. Thanks to conservation efforts, their populations have rebounded in many areas.
  • Peregrine Falcons are prized falconry birds due to their speed and hunting prowess.
  • These birds have a unique breathing system that allows them to get enough oxygen while flying at high speeds.
  • Peregrine Falcons are known to be fiercely territorial and will defend their nest against much larger predators.

4. Crested Caracara

The Crested Caracara is a medium-sized raptor native to North, South, and Central America. They are rarely seen in Florida but can be seen in small areas of southern Florida all year round.

  • Length: 49-58cm (19.3-22.8 inches)
  • Weight: 1050-1300g (37-46oz)
  • Wingspan: 122-125cm (48-49 inches)
  • Crested Caracara Scientific Name: Caracara cheriway

Appearance

Crested Caracaras are large birds with long legs, thick bills, and long straight wings. Their wingspan can reach up to 4 feet.

They have dark feathers on their back and wings, white feathers on their head and neck, and a white tail with dark barring.

They have a distinctive black crest on their head, bright orange facial skin, yellow legs, and white flight feathers.

Juveniles have a similar pattern to adults but are brown, with gray legs and pinkish facial skin.

Habitat

You can spot Crested Caracaras perched on fence posts or trees in semi-open habitats, including grasslands, savannas, deserts, and prairies.

Diet

They are opportunistic ground feeders and will eat various small animals, including small mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, and insects. They have also been spotted eating roadkill in areas of southern Texas and Mexico.

Nesting

They build their nests in trees about 50 feet off the ground using sticks, debris, and weeds.

They typically lay 2-3 eggs, which are incubated for about a month. Both parents take turns incubating the eggs and feeding the chicks.

Interesting facts

  • Crested Caracaras are often called the “Mexican Eagle” due to their similarity in appearance to eagles, but they are not closely related.
  • These birds are social and are often seen in groups, especially when feeding on carrion.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Does Florida have Hawks or Falcons?

Florida has both hawks and falcons throughout the state. Common species of hawks in Florida include Red-tailed Hawks, Broad-winged Hawks, and Mississippi Kites. Common species of falcons in Florida include Kestrels, Merlins, Peregrine Falcons, and Crested Caracaras.

Are peregrine falcons in Florida?

Yes, Peregrine Falcons can be seen throughout Florida during the non-breeding season.

What kind of falcons live in Florida?

Four kinds of falcon species live in Florida during the year. These include the American Kestrel, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, and Crested Caracara.

Keep An Eye Out For The Falcons Of Florida

Falcons are fascinating birds of prey that residents can find in Florida. They come in various shapes and sizes, from the tiny American Kestrel to the large Crested Caracara.

Falcons have adapted to the many different habitats in Florida and can often be seen soaring over open fields or perched atop tall structures.

Whether you’re a bird watching enthusiast or just someone who enjoys learning about nature, taking some time to learn about the four kinds of falcons that live in Florida will provide you with a newfound appreciation for these incredible birds.

We hope this article has provided all the information you need. If you have questions about identifying more species of birds in Florida or finding out which ones live near you, let us know!

We would love to help identify new bird species for our readers.

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I am an avid birdwatcher with a passion for learning all I can about these fantastic creatures. I love finding new species of birds in my backyard, neighborhood, or when I travel. I enjoy sharing everything I learn about how these creatures live their lives; feedback and experience is much appreciated!

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