4 Fierce Falcons In New York State to look out for

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Falcons in New York State

The Falcons in New York State are incredible birds of prey that capture the admiration of birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts across the state’s vast landscapes. 

Residents can spot four species of falcons in the state of New York throughout the year. From the iconic Peregrine Falcon, known for its breathtaking hunting speed, to the agile American Kestrel, each falcon species brings unique charm to the state’s bird diversity.

What are the most Common Falcons In New York?

The most common falcons of New York include the American Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Merlin, and Gyrfalcon.

Whether you’re exploring the Hudson Valley, gazing at the cityscape of New York City, or observing from rural farmlands, encountering a falcon in the Empire State is an exhilarating experience.

In this blog post, you’ll discover valuable tips for identifying these magnificent birds and gain a deeper appreciation for the falcons that live in New York throughout the year.

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.

New York Falcons

According to the latest data from ebird, there are four observed species of falcons in New York State. This data has been compiled from over 64,800 dedicated bird watchers throughout the state.

Here are some quick facts:

  • American Kestrels are the most common observed falcons in New York State
  • Gyrfalcon’s are the least widely observed species in New York State
  • Gyrfalcon’s are the largest falcons in the state
  • American Kestrels are the smallest falcons in the state of New York

4 Types Of Falcons In New York State

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 New York State.

  • 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

American Kestrels feed on large insects, such as grasshoppers and beetles, small mammals, reptiles, and small backyard birds in New York State.

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 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 about American Kestrels

  • 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.
  • American Kestrels 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

Peregrine Falcons are incredible migratory birds of prey known for their impressive speed and agility. Some small areas of New York State see them all year round, but most of the state will see Peregrine Falcons during the fall and spring migration 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 (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 spot 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 nest 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.

Interesting facts about Peregrine Falcons

  • 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 environmental 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.

3. Merlin

The Merlin is a small, agile falcon found throughout the Northern Hemisphere. They are also known as the pigeon hawk and are residents of New York State during the spring and fall migration 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

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 smaller 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 nest sites 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 about Merlins

  • 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. Gyrfalcon

The Gyrfalcon is a large falcon that inhabits the world’s high arctic and subarctic regions. They can be seen in the northernmost areas of New York State during the winter 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 another New York State Raptor, the 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 ground 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 nesting sites 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 about Gyrfalcons

  • 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)

What kind of falcons live in New York?

Four kinds of falcon species live in New York State during the year. These include the American Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Merlin, and Gyrfalcon.

What do peregrine falcons eat in New York City?

Yes, the Peregrine Falcon is a notorious bird of prey that hunts in New York City. They can often be seen flying around buildings and bridges, especially during their nesting season.

What are the small falcons in New York?

New York State is home to two small falcons: the American Kestrel, a year-round resident, and the Merlin, which visits the state during the fall and spring migration seasons.

Keep An Eye Out For Falcons In New York State

Falcons are incredible birds of prey that residents can find in New York. They come in various shapes and sizes, from the tiny American Kestrel to the large Gyrfalcon.

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

Whether you’re a veteran birdwatcher or just someone who enjoys learning about nature, taking some time to learn about the four kinds of falcons that live in New York State 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 New York State 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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