Birds of the Western Slope April 12, 2017
By Evelyn Horn
Published Thursday, April 13, 2017 7:50 am
Photo by JoAnn Riggle Prairie Falcon
I have seen prairie falcon on many occasions, but I've never seen one so bedraggled! Or so annoyed. Poor thing. He looks like he's ready to quit! And he also looks very angry! I look at the water behind him and wonder how wet he actually got. But there is red around his bill. From a kill? So maybe he isn't really hungry.
And I do thank JoAnn Riggle for letting me use her photo of an annoyed bird. In her email, JoAnn said that the bird really looked bedraggled. Maybe it was on its last legs -- but then it flew! "Perfectly healthy, am I," said the bird!
What a wonderful experience to find a prairie falcon!
As I was working with her photo, I enlarged it and could see the bloody foot that I'd missed at first. So our falcon had a kill and was probably just resting! Although it looks angry, there is an explanation. There's a bony ridge above the eye with all raptors that serves as sunshade and gives the bird an "angry" look.
In checking through Sibley's Guide to Birds, I found two that I'd forgotten -- the gyrfalcon of the far north (found in tundra) and the crested caracara (that I saw once on a whooping crane trip in Texas. It just sat in a tree!). There's also an aplomado falcon that I'd love to meet -- it is being re-introduced into Arizona and Texas. It has a white chin, a marked facial pattern like the peregrine or the kestrel, and a bright orange belly.
I find that only the gyrfalcon has a horizontal pattern of its breast feathers (and it's way out of our range), so that leaves just the peregrine with a horizontal breast pattern -- all the rest have up-down striations (stripes) or spots. That should make it easier for identification. Of course, the juveniles differ, so one is still stuck to check the field guide!
Our prairie falcon is properly called Falco mexicanus with reference to its wintering grounds in Baja California and northern Mexico. Their mating is for only one season and the male makes an interesting flight display. The bird is seen on the prairie, in open mountain regions, and even into alpine tundra. What a neat bird!
Final crane count = 13,566.