Falcons in Missouri capture the attention of birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts throughout the state. Known for their remarkable speed and impressive hunting abilities, these birds of prey are a sight to behold.
Residents can spot four species of falcons in the state throughout the year. From the familiar American Kestrel to the fastest animal on earth, the Peregrine Falcon, these birds will leave you in awe with their hunting prowess and distinctive features.
What Are The Most Common Falcons In Missouri?
The most common falcons in Missouri include the American Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Merlin, and Prairie Falcon.
Whether traveling the prairies, exploring the forests and woodlands, or simply observing from their backyard, residents can encounter a falcon throughout the year in Missouri.
We have organized our list from most likely seen to the least likely to be seen for your convenience.
According to the latest data from ebird, there are four observed falcons in Missouri. This data has been compiled from over 20,500 dedicated bird watchers throughout the state.
Here are some quick facts:
- The American Kestrel is the most common observed falcons in Missouri
- Prairie Falcons are the least widely observed species in Missouri
- The Peregrine Falcon is the largest falcon in Missouri
- The American Kestrel is the smallest falcon in Missouri
4 Types Of Falcons In Missouri
1. American Kestrel
The American Kestrel, also known as the Sparrow Hawk, is a small falcon throughout North and South America and a year-round Missouri resident.
- 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
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.
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.
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.
American Kestrels 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.
- 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. Peregrine Falcon
The Peregrine Falcon is an incredible bird of prey known for their impressive speed and agility. They can be seen throughout North and Central America and are residents of Missouri during the spring and fall migration seasons.
- 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
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.
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 tall buildings, water towers, or bridges.
They feed primarily on other smaller birds, such as pigeons, doves, 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.
Peregrine Falcons use scrape to build their nesting sites 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.
- Peregrine Falcons are the fastest animals 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.
- They 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.
- The Peregrine Falcon is known to be fiercely territorial and will defend their nest against much larger predators.
The Merlin is a small, agile falcon found throughout the Northern Hemisphere and is a resident of Missouri during the spring and fall migrations months.
- 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
4. Prairie Falcon
The Prairie Falcon is a large falcon inhabiting North America’s western regions. They can be seen in Central Missouri’s Till Plains during the colder non-breeding season.
- Length: 37-47cm (14.6-18.5 inches)
- Weight: 420-1100g (14.8-39oz)
- Wingspan: 90-113cm (35.4-44.5 inches)
- Prairie Falcon Scientific Name: Falco mexicanus
Prairie Falcons are brown above with pale barring and light-colored below with dark streaks on the belly and sides.
They have a distinctive mustache mark on their face, which is black or dark brown, and a yellow eye ring.
You can spot a Prairie Falcon in various open habitats in the western half of North America, such as prairies, grasslands, deserts, and hills.
Prairie Falcons feed on other small birds and mammals, such as songbirds, pigeons, quail, squirrels, and jackrabbits.
They are skilled hunters and will use various techniques to catch their prey by surprise.
Prairie Falcons nest on cliffs using old nests of other large raptors or ravens or using dirt and scrape.
They typically lay 3-5 eggs, which the female incubates for about a month. Males hunt and bring food for the females and young.
- Prairie Falcons are known for their versatile hunting skills and will use any technique with the highest chance of success.
- They are fierce defenders of their nest and often take on larger raptors to defend their young.
- Prairie Falcons are famous birds for falconry due to their speed, agility, and versatility.
Keep An Eye Out For Falcons In Missouri
Four species of falcons can be seen in the “Show-Me” state, including the American Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Merlin, and Prairie Falcon.
All four raptors are powerful predators, providing excellent bird-watching opportunities and allowing residents to appreciate Missouri’s wildlife better.
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 Missouri will provide you with a newfound appreciation for these incredible birds.
We hope this article has provided all the information you need to identify and appreciate all four Missouri falcons.
If you have questions about identifying more species of birds in Missouri or finding out which ones live near you, let us know!
We would love to help identify new bird species for our readers.