4 Mighty Falcons in Michigan to look out for

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Falcons in Michigan

Falcons in Michigan are a true spectacle for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts nationwide. With their incredible speed and aerial prowess, these birds of prey leave a lasting impression wherever they soar. 

Residents can spot four species of falcons in the state throughout the year. The first species is more common than the last three, and Michigan is home to the world’s fastest bird.

Common Falcons In Michigan

The most common falcons in Michigan include the American Kestrel, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, and Gyrfalcon.

Whether exploring the rugged landscapes, scanning the open fields, or observing from urban areas, encountering falcons in Michigan is a fantastic experience.

So grab your binoculars and join us as we embark on an exhilarating journey to uncover the remarkable falcons of Michigan.

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

Michigan Falcons

According to the latest data from ebird, there are four observed species of falcons in Michigan. This data has been compiled from over 36,600 dedicated bird watchers throughout the state.

Here are some quick facts:

  • The American Kestrel is the most common observed falcons in Michigan
  • Gyrfalcons are the least widely observed species in Michigan
  • The Gyrfalcon is the largest falcons in Michigan
  • The American Kestrel is the smallest falcon in Michigan

4 Types Of Falcons In Michigan

1. American Kestrel

The American Kestrel, also known as the Sparrow Hawk, is a small bird of prey throughout North and South America. They can be seen in Michigan during the warmer summer and spring breeding season.

  • 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 American Kestrels in various habitats, including grasslands, open fields, and urban areas. They prefer areas with raised perches, such as telephone poles and fence posts.

Diet

They 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

They build their nests in empty tree cavities made by woodpeckers or other natural cavities but will also use human nest 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.
  • The American Kestrel 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.
  • They are often used in falconry due to their small size and agility.

2. Merlin

Merlins are small, agile raptors throughout North and Central America.

They can be seen in Michigan during the fall and spring migration periods when they move from their breeding grounds in the north to their winter range down south.

  • 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

Merlins are small falcons, 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 nests in trees, often reusing old crow or hawk nests. 

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

The Peregrine Falcon is an incredible raptor known for their impressive speed and agility.

They can be seen in Michigan during the spring and fall migration periods when they fly from their warmer breeding grounds in northern Canada to the southern United States and Central America in the winter months.

  • 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 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 spot a Peregrine Falcon in various habitats, including coastal cliffs, mountains, cities, open country, and other tall structures near water. 

People often see them perched on man-made structures such as tall buildings, water towers, or bridges.

Diet

They 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 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 and can reach 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.
  • The Peregrine Falcon is a prized falconry birds due to its speed and hunting prowess.
  • These birds have a unique breathing system that allows them to get enough oxygen while flying at high speeds.
  • They are known to be fiercely territorial and will defend their nest against much larger predators.

4. Gyrfalcon

The Gyrfalcon is the largest species of falcon in North America and can be seen in Michigan during the colder non-breeding season.

  • Length: 48-64cm (19-25 inches)
  • Weight: 800-2100g (28-74oz)
  • Wingspan: Avg 123cm (48 inches)
  • Gyrfalcon Scientific Name: Falco rusticolus

Appearance

Gyrfalcons are the largest falcon species, with a wingspan of up to 5 feet. They appear bulkier than most falcons, and females are close in size to a Red-tailed Hawk. 

They come in light, gray, and dark morph colorations. The light morph is all white above, with varying darker markings and black bands on their tails.

The gray morph is dark gray above with lighter gray feather tips that give it a scaled appearance. Below they are paler with dark barring on their belly and flanks.

The dark morph is blackish-brown above and white below with heavy brown streaks.

Habitat

Gyrfalcons live in various arctic habitats, including tundra, mountains, and coastal cliffs

They are uniquely adapted to living in cold environments, and people often see them in the northernmost United States and Canada during winter. 

Diet

Gyrfalcons feed primarily on other birds, such as ptarmigan, grouse, and waterfowl but will also eat small mammals, such as hares and squirrels.

They are skilled hunters who scout for prey on high perches or while flying and use their speed and agility to pursue or surprise their prey.

Nesting

Gyrfalcons build their nests on cliffs or other high structures using old nests from other large birds. 

They typically lay 3-5 eggs, which both parents incubate for about a month. Males hunt and bring food for the female, who feeds the young.

Interesting facts

  • Falconers highly prize gyrfalcons due to their size and hunting abilities.
  • Gyrfalcons are among the few birds of prey with different color variations, namely light, gray, and dark morphs.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Does Michigan have Hawks or Falcons?

Yes, Michigan is home to several species of Hawks and Falcons. The state has nine species of hawks and four species of Falcons that can be observed throughout the year.

What kind of falcons live in Michigan?

Three kinds of falcon species live in Michigan during the year. These include the American Kestrel, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, and Gyrfalcon.

Do Peregrine Falcons live in Michigan?

Yes, Peregrine Falcons are found in Michigan during the year. They can be seen primarily during the migration periods in spring and fall.

Keep An Eye Out For the Falcons In Michigan

Michigan is home to four species of Falcon, including the American Kestrel, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, and Gyrfalcon. These birds of prey have impressive hunting abilities and are adapted to living in Michigan’s various habitats.

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 Michigan will provide you with a newfound appreciation for these fantastic birds.

We hope this article has provided all the information you need. If you have questions about identifying more species of birds in Michigan 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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