Falcons in Texas grace the skies with their swift and agile flight, captivating birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts across the state. Known for their remarkable speed and striking aerial displays, these birds of prey are a sight to behold.
Residents can spot six species of falcons in the state throughout the year. From the majestic Peregrine Falcon, the fastest animal on Earth, to the striking American Kestrel, these birds will leave you in awe with their hunting prowess and distinctive features.
Common Texas Falcons
The most common falcons in Texas include the American Kestrel, Crested Caracara, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, Aplomado Falcon and Prairie Falcon
Whether you’re exploring the vast deserts, coastal plains, or urban landscapes of Texas, the chance of encountering a falcon is an exhilarating prospect.
So, grab your binoculars, venture into the Texan wilderness, and join us as we explore the captivating realm of Texas falcons.
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 six observed falcons in Texas. This data has been compiled from over 60,500 dedicated bird watchers throughout the state.
Here are some quick facts:
- The American Kestrel is the most common observed falcons in Texas
- Prairie Falcons are the least widely observed species in Texas
- The Peregrine Falcon is the largest falcon in Texas
- The American Kestrel is the smallest falcon in Texas
6 Types Of Falcons In Texas
1. American Kestrel
The American Kestrel, also known as the Sparrow Hawk, is a small falcon throughout North and South America. They can be seen in northern Texas all year round and in southern Texas during the colder non-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
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. Crested Caracara
The Crested Caracara is a medium-sized birds of prey native to North, Central, and South America and a year-round southern Texas resident.
- Length: 49-58cm (19.3-22.8 inches)
- Weight: 1050-1300g (37-46oz)
- Wingspan: 122-125cm (48-49 inches)
- Crested Caracara Scientific Name: Caracara cheriway
Crested Caracaras are large birds with long legs, thick bills, and long straight wings. Their wingspan can reach up to 4 feet.
They have dark feathers on their back and wings, white feathers on their head and neck, and a white tail with dark barring.
They have a distinctive black crest on their head, bright orange facial skin, yellow legs, and white flight feathers.
Juveniles have a similar pattern to adults but are brown, with gray legs and pinkish facial skin.
You can spot a Crested Caracara perched on fence posts or trees in semi-open habitats, including grasslands, savannas, deserts, and prairies.
They are opportunistic ground feeders and will eat various small animals, including mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, and insects. They are also known to scavenge for carrion.
Crested Caracaras build their nests in trees about 50 feet off the ground using sticks, debris, and weeds.
They typically lay 2-3 eggs, which are incubated for about a month. Both parents take turns incubating the eggs and feeding the chicks.
- Crested Caracaras are often called the “Mexican Eagle” due to their similarity in appearance to eagles, but they are not closely related.
- These birds are social and are often seen in groups, especially when feeding on carrion.
The Merlin is a small, agile falcon found throughout the Northern Hemisphere and is a resident of Texas during the colder non-breeding 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. 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 south and coastal Texas residents during the colder non-breeding season.
- 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.
5. Aplomado Falcon
The Aplomado Falcon is a mighty medium-sized falcon found primarily in central and South America, with some of its range reaching the southwest United States. They can be seen in areas around southwest Texas all year round.
- Length: 38-43cm (15-17 inches)
- Weight: 208-500g (7-17.5oz)
- Wingspan: 102-122cm (40-48 inches)
- Aplomado Falcon Scientific Name: Falco femoralis
Aplomado Falcons are medium-sized birds with a wingspan of up to 4 feet. They are colorful falcons with long pointed wings, long tails, and distinctive black and white striped faces.
Adults are dark grayish-blue above with a white chest and a rusty-colored belly that is separated by a black belly band. Their flight feathers and tales are black with at least six white bands.
Juveniles are similarly patterned but are brownish black above and have a rusty colored chest with black streaks.
Aplomado Falcons prefer to live in open areas such as desert habitats, open grasslands, and savannas in Mexico, Central America, and parts of South America, as well as in some regions of the southwestern United States.
Aplomado Falcons are skilled hunters and feed on a variety of prey. They primarily hunt small to medium-sized birds such as doves, quails, and songbirds but also prey on insects, reptiles, and small mammals.
A pair will work together to catch prey in the air or ground. One flushes the prey out, and the other makes the kill.
Aplomado Falcons don’t build their own nests but use the unoccupied nest of other large birds, such as hawks and crows.
The female lays 2-4 eggs, which hatch after about a month. Both parents take turns incubating the eggs and feeding the chicks, but the male does most of the hunting.
- These birds were once endangered due to habitat loss and hunting, but conservation efforts have helped some populations recover.
6. Prairie Falcon
The Prairie Falcon is a large falcon inhabiting North America’s western regions. They can be seen in west Texas all year round and in east Texas during the colder winter months.
- 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.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What kind of falcons live in Texas?
Six kinds of falcons live in Texas during the year. These include the American Kestrel, Crested Caracara, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, Aplomado Falcon and Prairie Falcon.
Does Texas have hawks or falcons?
Yes, Texas is home to several species of Hawks and Falcons. The state has seventeen species of hawks and six species of Falcons that can be observed throughout the year.
Does Texas have peregrine falcons?
Yes, Peregrine Falcons are residents of Texas. You can see them in the state during the winter and migration months in the fall and spring.
Keep An Eye Out For Falcons In Texas
Six different species of falcons can be seen in the Lone Star state, including the American Kestrel, Crested Caracara, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, Aplomado Falcon, and Prairie Falcon.
All six of these birds are incredibly beautiful and powerful predators that provide excellent opportunities for bird watching and wildlife appreciation.
Whether you’re a bird-watching enthusiast or just someone who enjoys learning about nature, taking some time to learn about the six kinds of falcons that live in Texas 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 six Texas falcons. If you have questions about identifying more species of birds in Texas or finding out which ones live near you, let us know!
We would love to help identify new bird species for our readers.