5 Deadly Falcons In Ohio to look out for

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Ohio’s Falcons grace the skies with speed and agility, catching the attention of birdwatchers and nature lovers across the state. With their fast flight and impressive hunting skills, these birds of prey are a genuinely magnificent sight.

Residents can spot five species of falcons in Ohio throughout the year. From the iconic Peregrine Falcon, known for its incredible hunting speed, to the familiar American Kestrel, these birds will leave a lasting impression.

What Are The Types Of Falcons In Ohio?

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

Whether you’re exploring the forests of the Appalachian foothills, visiting the Great Lakes, or observing from Ohio’s suburban neighborhoods and backyards, the opportunity to encounter a falcon in Ohio is a thrilling and rewarding experience.

Gain valuable insights into their behaviors, preferred habitats, and nesting habits, and learn tips for identifying these magnificent creatures in the wild.

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

Ohio Falcons

According to the latest data from ebird, there are five observed species of falcons in Ohio. This data has been compiled from over 41,600 dedicated bird watchers throughout the state.

Here are some quick facts:

  • The American Kestrel is the most common observed falcons in Ohio
  • Gyrfalcons are the least widely observed species in Ohio
  • The Peregrine Falcon is the largest falcon in Ohio
  • The American Kestrel is the smallest falcon in Ohio

5 Types Of Falcons In Ohio

1. American Kestrel

American Kestrel is a type of Falcon in Ohio

The American Kestrel, also known as the Sparrow Hawk, is a small falcon found throughout North and South America and can be seen in Ohio all year round.

  • 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 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 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.
  • 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

The Peregrine Falcon is a common falcon in Ohio

Peregrine Falcons are incredible birds of prey known for their impressive speed and agility. They can be seen in southern Ohio all year round and in northern Ohio 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

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 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.

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

  • 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.
  • 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

Merlin is a tiny falcon in Ohio

The Merlin is a small, agile falcon found throughout the Northern Hemisphere. They can seen passing through Ohio 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 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 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.

4. Prairie Falcon

The Prairie Falcon is an uncommon visitor to Ohio in Winter

The Prairie Falcon is a large falcon inhabiting North America’s western regions. They are not typical visitors to Ohio, but there have been some observations of Prairies falcons in Cincinnati and northwest Ohio during winter 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

Appearance

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.

Habitat

You can spot a Prairie Falcon in various open habitats in the western half of North America, such as prairies, grasslands, deserts, and hills.

Diet

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.

Nesting

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.

Interesting facts

  • 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.
  • They are famous birds for use in falconry due to their speed, agility, and versatility.

5. Gyrfalcon

The Gyrfalcon is an uncommon visitor in Ohio during the colder non-breeding season

The Gyrfalcon is a large falcon that inhabits the subarctic and arctic regions of the world. They are not common falcons in Ohio, and their winter range extends from northern Canada to Michigan, but they have been seen in parts of Ohio around the Lake Erie area during the 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.

Keep An Eye Out For Falcons In Ohio

Ohio is home to five species of falcons, each with unique characteristics and behaviors. They range from the familiar American Kestrel to the fast and powerful Peregrine Falcon.

Each species has adapted its hunting style and behavior to survive in Ohio’s many habitats. It’s an excellent opportunity for birdwatchers to observe these birds in their natural habitats and learn more about them.

Whether you’re a bird-watching enthusiast or just someone who enjoys learning about nature, taking some time to learn about the five species of falcons that live in Ohio 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 Ohio falcons. If you have questions about identifying more species of birds in Ohio 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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