The falcons of Florida will be discussed in this article. Hopefully, you’ll learn some fascinating facts and have a better understanding of how to recognize them! (Don’t be afraid, there won’t be any crossbred birds.)
The pointed wings, powerful chests, and hooked beaks of falcons are what distinguishes them. Their pointed wing silhouettes are described by the term “falcon,” which is derived from the word “falcate,” which means sickle-shaped. They are a formidable bird of prey because they are excellent fliers and predators.
Falcons have long been utilized by humans for hunting because of their speed and exceptional predation abilities, thus the term “falconry” was born. They were formerly utilized by royalty, and they are still prohibitively costly today, with costs in the thousands. In the falconry community, there is a lot of crossbreeding, making it tough to identify escaped birds.
THE 4 SPECIES OF FALCONS IN FLORIDA
Recent genetic research shows that falcons and parrots have a shared ancestor with songbirds, and that they are connected to other birds of prey like hawks. Isn’t it a weird world, taxonomy and evolution?
Falcons often eat songbirds, despite their relationship to birds. They pursue them from behind, forcing them to fatigue themselves by pushing them as high into the sky as possible before diving down on the exhausted bird. It’s almost tough to outfly their quick speeds. The same times as the morning and evening choruses of songbirds and the hours they are most active, most falcons hunt early in the morning and late in the evenings.
Ok, time to move on to the four sorts of falcons that may be found in Florida!
1. AMERICAN KESTREL
Scientific name: Falco sparverius
Length: 8.7 – 12.2 in
Weight: 2.8 – 5.8 oz
Wingspan: 20.1 – 24.0 in
The most colorful American Kestrels are the smallest falcons in North America. Grey-blue wings with a rusty orange back and black barring distinguish males from females. It has black tips on its rusty orange tail. Orange streaks run down the pale belly, which is dotted with little black polka dots.
The wings and tail are black, and the females are rusty orange above. They have orange streaking on their pale bellies, rather than the males’ spots. The males have a little orange patch on top of the grey cap, while the females have black stripes down their cheeks. Because of their position, stripes are sometimes referred to as a “mustache” and “sideburns.”
While in the country, these birds can be seen perched on telephone poles and fence posts, keeping a sharp lookout for insects, small animals, and reptiles. predators, such as hawks, owls, and crows, as well as snakes. They must also keep an watch for them since they are frequently meals for bigger birds of prey.
In the majority of Florida, American Kestrels can be found year-round. During the wintering season, migrants can be found at the state’s southern tip. Because females migrate first, males are forced to use more wooded regions because the available environment is taken up by them. If they are up in time, these birds will nest in bird boxes.
Scientific name: Falco columbarius
Length: 9.4 – 11.8 in
Weight: 5.6 – 8.5 oz
Wingspan: 20.9 – 26.8 in
Merlin has smaller wings and a shorter tail than the American Kestrel, but it is somewhat bigger and more compact.
The populations that winter in Florida have the “taiga” variation of merlins, which has three color variations across the country.
The taiga birds, which are black and streaky, are the tiniest of the different breeds. The wings and backs of males are blue-grey. With thick black bands, the tail is likewise blue grey. Their bellies are streaked with brown and are pale. The slaty brown females have black streaking on a pale belly. On the tail, they have dark and buffy bars.
Wintering migrants may be found throughout the state of Florida. They’re fairly prevalent along the coast, but may be found in grasslands and open woodlands while here. These swift birds may be observed perched in the trees, dashing through the air after a songbird or shorebird. Merlin are quick and cover a lot of ground quickly, so keep an eye on them unless they’re perching.
Merlin was once known as “ladyhawks” in medieval falconry, and European noblewomen used them to hunt Sky Larks. Catherine the Great and Mary Queen of Scots utilized these lively birds. Merlin is still used by falconers today to hunt a wide range of tiny to huge birds, from tiny sparrows to huge doves.
3. PEREGRINE FALCON
Scientific name: Falco peregrinus
Length: 14.2 – 19.3 in
Weight: 18.7 – 56.4 oz
Wingspan: 39.4 – 43.3 in
The backs of peregrines are black, while the underparts are white with barring on the belly. Yellow eyes, black moustaches, and white cheek patches distinguish them from their happy counterparts. When they use the force of their dive, their legs are heavily feathered and include a huge hind talon that is strong enough to kill prey on contact.
Peregrines may be found around the coast and in cities throughout the winter. Due to population decreases caused by pesticides in the 1970s, they were added to the Endangered Species List. It was a pleasure to catch sight of one every day during this period. Numbers are now rising, and on some days, there are roughly 350 sightings at one location in the Florida Keys.
Peregrines are common around coasts and in cities throughout the winter. Because of population reduction from pesticides in the 1970s, they were added to the Endangered Species List. Seeing one every day was a highlight of the period. Numbers are now increasing, with some days seeing over 350 sightings at a location in the Florida Keys.
Birds are the major source of their diet, which they capture in flight. They have been observed eating 450 different species of birds in North America. This figure increases to roughly 2000 bird species as prey because they are found on every continent except Antarctica. Size isn’t a concern for them. They’ve been recorded hunting on huge birds (like a Sandhill Crane) and tiny birds (like a hummingbird). Bats and fish are also a favorite snack for them.
4. CRESTED CARACARA
Length: 19.3-22.8 in
Weight: 37.0-45.9 oz
Wingspan: 48.0-49.2 in
In Florida, the Crested Caracara stands out from other falcon species. They’re mostly found in Central America, although a few in the United States. One of them, Florida, is located there. They’re really only seen in a tiny region of Central Florida near Orlando, according to allaboutbirds.org.
With their huge, pointy talons and orange beaks, Crested Caracaras resemble a mix of a hawk and a vulture. They’re a little bigger than Peregrine Falcons in terms of size.
Omnivores, Crested Caracaras are thought to primarily eat carrion. These birds are frequently seen high up in tree branches, but they may also be seen on the ground and spotted eating roadkill and other dead animals. The vulture-like face they have would be explained by this.