Falcons in Pennsylvania are dynamic and captivating birds that add an exciting dimension to the state’s bird diversity.
With their remarkable speed and hunting prowess, these birds of prey draw the attention of birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts alike.
Residents can spot three species of falcons in the state throughout the year. From the famous Peregrine Falcon, known for its breathtaking hunting dives, to the agile Kestrel and Merlin that frequent a range of habitats, each species contributes to the vibrant diversity of Pennsylvania’s wildlife.
What are the most Common Falcons In Pennsylvania?
The most common falcons in Pennsylvania include the American Kestrel, Merlin, and Peregrine Falcon.
Whether you’re exploring the urban landscapes, scanning the open fields, or hiking through the woodlands, encountering a falcon in Pennsylvania is a thrilling experience.
Delve into their distinctive characteristics, behaviors, and preferred habitats, gaining insights into their hunting techniques, nesting habits, and identification.
According to the latest data from ebird, there are three observed falcons in Pennsylvania. This data has been compiled from over 46,400 dedicated bird watchers throughout the state.
Here are some quick facts:
- The American Kestrel is the most common observed falcons in Pennsylvania
- Peregrine Falcons are the least widely observed species in Pennsylvania
- The Peregrine Falcon is the largest falcon in Pennsylvania
- The American Kestrel is the smallest falcon in Pennsylvania
3 Types Of Falcons In Pennsylvania
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 Pennsylvania.
- 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 Kestrel 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.
You can spot American Kestrels in various habitats, including grasslands, open fields, and urban areas. They prefer areas with raised perches, such as telephone wires and fence posts.
American Kestrel Diet
American Kestrels feed on large insects, such as grasshoppers and beetles, small mammals, reptiles, and small Pennsylvania Backyard 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.
- 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.
- These tiny birds often fall victim to larger Pennsylvania birds of prey, such as the Red-tailed Hawk and Great Horned-Owl.
The Merlin is a small, agile falcon found throughout the Northern Hemisphere. They can be seen in Pennsylvania 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
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.
3. Peregrine Falcon
The Peregrine Falcon is an incredible bird of prey known for its impressive speed and agility. They can be seen in Pennsylvania during spring and fall migration periods when they move from their breeding and wintering grounds.
- 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.
An adult Peregrine Falcon is 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.
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.
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.
- 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. However, they sometimes fall victim to larger birds of Prey, such as a Pennsylvania Great Horned Owl.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What kind of falcons live in Pennsylvania?
Three kinds of falcons live in Pennsylvania during the year. These include the American Kestrel, Merlin, and Peregrine Falcon.
Do peregrine falcons live in Pennsylvania?
Yes, Peregrine Falcons live in Pennsylvania but only during the spring and fall migration season.
Keep An Eye Out For Falcons In Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania is home to three different species of falcons, each with unique characteristics and behaviors. They range from the small and fast American Kestrel to the large and powerful Peregrine Falcon.
Each species has adapted to survive in Pennsylvania’s varied environments. It’s a great 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 three species of falcons that live in Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania falcons.
If you have questions about identifying more species of birds in Pennsylvania or finding out which ones live near you, let us know!
We would love to help identify new bird species for our readers.