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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

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Maximum longevity: 17.2 years (wild) Observations: Though some animals may breed at age 1, most only breed after age 2. The average longevity in the wild is about 2.5 years. The IMR was estimated based on data from wild populations (http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/). In captivity, animals might live up to 20 years, though these claims have not been verified.
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Joao Pedro de Magalhaes
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Reproduction

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Prairie falcons are monogamous during the breeding season. Pairs are established upon arriving at the breeding grounds. The mating system is similar to that of peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus) and gryfalcons (Falco rusticolus). Courtship behaviors include ledge displays, head-low bows, mutual soaring, and different vocalizations. Males use food and vocalizations to attract females to ledges. Copulation between prairie falcons lasts about 10 seconds. Copulation begins more than 51 days before the clutch is completed. Males during courtship tend to females by bringing food to the nesting site.

Mating System: monogamous

Prairie falcons don't construct nests, rather they create a scrape on a ledge. They breed from February to July, with a peak from April to May. They lay from 2 to 6 eggs at 2 day intervals. Incubation lasts about 29 to 31 days. Young are fledged at 29 to 47 days old and become independent a little more than 2 months after hatching. Prairie falcons become sexually mature within 2 years after hatching.

Breeding interval: Prairie falcons breed once yearly.

Breeding season: Late February through July, with peak activity between April and May.

Range eggs per season: 2 to 6.

Average eggs per season: 5.

Range time to hatching: 29 to 31 days.

Range fledging age: 29 to 47 days.

Average time to independence: 65 days.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1 to 2 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1 years.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 1 to 2 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 2 years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; oviparous

Average eggs per season: 4.

Females perform the majority of incubation and brooding. Males begin sharing incubation duties during the egg laying process but the amount of time a male incubates varies greatly. Young hatch with open ear holes and slightly open eyes. Parental attendance at the nest decreases 1 to 2 days after hatching, within 28 days of hatching the parents no longer brood the young. During the first three weeks after hatching, both parents feed the young. Usually, the male brings food to the female who passes it to the young. After 4 weeks, parents drop food at the ledge of the nest and chicks begin to feed themselves.

Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Protecting: Female)

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Goulet, M. 2007. "Falco mexicanus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Falco_mexicanus.html
author
Matthew Goulet, Kalamazoo College
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Ann Fraser, Kalamazoo College
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Tanya Dewey, Animal Diversity Web
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Behavior

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Vocalization is the most common form of communication in prairie falcons, but vocalizations have not been well studied. Three types of calls have been documented: cacking calls are territorial and alarm vocalizations, eechup calls are used during courtship and ledge displays, and chitter calls are used in aggressive situations. The cacking call is a loud, shrill kik-kik-kik.

Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

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Goulet, M. 2007. "Falco mexicanus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Falco_mexicanus.html
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Matthew Goulet, Kalamazoo College
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Ann Fraser, Kalamazoo College
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Tanya Dewey, Animal Diversity Web
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Conservation Status

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Falco mexicanus has a wide range and large global population and is considered a low conservation risk currently. Prairie falcon populations do not seem to be declining.

US Migratory Bird Act: protected

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: appendix ii

State of Michigan List: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Goulet, M. 2007. "Falco mexicanus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Falco_mexicanus.html
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Matthew Goulet, Kalamazoo College
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Ann Fraser, Kalamazoo College
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Tanya Dewey, Animal Diversity Web
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Benefits

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There are no known adverse effects of Falco mexicanus on humans.

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Goulet, M. 2007. "Falco mexicanus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Falco_mexicanus.html
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Matthew Goulet, Kalamazoo College
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Ann Fraser, Kalamazoo College
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Tanya Dewey, Animal Diversity Web
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Benefits

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Prairie falcons have been and continue to be important birds for education and scientific research. Their abundance allow for easy studying. They are also the second most frequently harvested bird in the United States for falconry, with nineteen states allowing regulated captures of prairie falcons. Prairie falcons also help to regulate populations of ground squirrels and other rodents.

Positive Impacts: ecotourism ; research and education; controls pest population

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Goulet, M. 2007. "Falco mexicanus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Falco_mexicanus.html
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Matthew Goulet, Kalamazoo College
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Ann Fraser, Kalamazoo College
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Tanya Dewey, Animal Diversity Web
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Associations

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Prairie falcons help keep ground squirrel populations in check as their main source of prey. They are also predators of other bird species. Prairie falcons are top predators, but are sometimes preyed on by larger birds of prey, such as golden eagles and great horned owls. Prairie falcon eggs and fledglings are sometimes taken by coyotes and bobcats.

Ecosystem Impact: keystone species

Commensal/Parasitic Species:

  • ticks (Carios concanensis)
  • Mexican chicken bugs (Haemoosiphon inodorus)
  • cliff swallow bugs (Oeciacus vicarius)
  • blue bottle fly maggots (Calliphora)
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Goulet, M. 2007. "Falco mexicanus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Falco_mexicanus.html
author
Matthew Goulet, Kalamazoo College
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Ann Fraser, Kalamazoo College
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Tanya Dewey, Animal Diversity Web
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Trophic Strategy

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During the breeding season the most common prey for these falcons are ground squirrels (Spermophilus), including Townsend’s ground squirrels (Spermophilus townsendii), Belding’s ground squirrels (Spermophilus beldingi) and Richardson’s ground squirrels (Spermophilus richarsonii). These falcons also eat small birds, such as horned larks (Eremophila alestris), western meadowlarks (Sturnella neglecta), mourning doves (Zenaida macroura), brown-capped rosy finches (Leucosticte ausralis), and blackbirds (Icteridae). Reptiles and large insects may also be taken.

Animal Foods: birds; mammals; reptiles; insects

Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats terrestrial vertebrates)

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Goulet, M. 2007. "Falco mexicanus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Falco_mexicanus.html
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Matthew Goulet, Kalamazoo College
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Ann Fraser, Kalamazoo College
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Tanya Dewey, Animal Diversity Web
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Distribution

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Falco mexicanus is found throughout the western United States as well as parts of Mexico and Canada. It is commonly found in the desert and prairie regions of British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan in Canada. In the United States, Falco mexicanus is found from North and South Dakota south to Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. Sightings in Manitoba, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, and Indiana have been recorded as well.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

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Goulet, M. 2007. "Falco mexicanus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Falco_mexicanus.html
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Matthew Goulet, Kalamazoo College
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Ann Fraser, Kalamazoo College
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Tanya Dewey, Animal Diversity Web
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Habitat

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In spring and fall migrations, prairie falcons prefer open grassland habitats, although they are found in forested habitats in Canada during migrations as well. In winter, prairie falcons prefer open desert and grassland habitats. Prairie falcons breed in open, arid grasslands with cliffs and bluffs for nesting. Nesting sites are commonly shared with common ravens (Corvus corax), golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos), and red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis).

Range elevation: 3350 (high) m.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune ; savanna or grassland ; chaparral ; mountains

Other Habitat Features: agricultural

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bibliographic citation
Goulet, M. 2007. "Falco mexicanus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Falco_mexicanus.html
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Matthew Goulet, Kalamazoo College
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Ann Fraser, Kalamazoo College
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Tanya Dewey, Animal Diversity Web
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Life Expectancy

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One calculation predicted Falco mexicanus longevity to be 15.6 years. More common, however, is a 2.4 to 4.9 year life span in the wild. Shooting by humans is the number one cause of death for prairie falcons. Collisions with manmade objects, such as vehicles, wires, and fences, is the second leading cause of death in adult falcons. Some adults have been known to drown in stock tanks as well. Predation by great horned owls (Bubo virginianus) leads to deaths as well. In eggs and nestlings, ectoparasites, predation, human disturbance, and starvation are leading causes of mortality. The average post-fledgling mortality rate is 31%.

Range lifespan
Status: wild:
9.1 (high) years.

Range lifespan
Status: captivity:
10 (high) hours.

Typical lifespan
Status: wild:
2.4 to 4.9 years.

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Goulet, M. 2007. "Falco mexicanus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Falco_mexicanus.html
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Matthew Goulet, Kalamazoo College
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Ann Fraser, Kalamazoo College
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Tanya Dewey, Animal Diversity Web
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Morphology

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Prairie falcons are large, pale brown falcons with squarish heads and large, dark eyes. Characteristic facial features include black malar streaks, a dark ear patch, and a distinctive white patch between the eyes and ear patch. About one year after birth, at full maturation, the bill horn is dark-bluish and yellow at the base. Yellow feet and a white throat also distinguish adults. When perched, the wings are shorter than the tail tip. Prairie falcons can be identified while in flight by their dark axillaries and a “trailing edge of underwing-coverts”. These stand out against the light colored underwing surface of the bird. Prairie falcons are distinguishable from similar looking falcons by dark, triangular patches on the undersurface of their pale wings. Females tend to be larger in size and have greater basal metabolic rates than males. Prairie falcons can be difficult to spot in their natural habitat, as plumage color blends in naturally with colors of the cliffs on which they nest. Prairie falcons are sometimes confused with Swainson's hawks (Buteo swainsoni), merlins (Falco columbarius), and peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus).

Range mass: 420 to 1100 g.

Range length: 37 to 47 cm.

Average length: 41 cm.

Range wingspan: 90 to 113 cm.

Average wingspan: 102 cm.

Average basal metabolic rate: 390.2 (males) 504.8 (females) cm3.O2/g/hr.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: female larger

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Goulet, M. 2007. "Falco mexicanus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Falco_mexicanus.html
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Matthew Goulet, Kalamazoo College
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Ann Fraser, Kalamazoo College
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Tanya Dewey, Animal Diversity Web
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Associations

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Nestlings and eggs are most susceptible to predation. Mammalian predators, especially coyotes and bobcats, prey on nestlings and eggs. Great horned owls prey on both adults and nestlings. Remains of prairie falcons have been found in golden eagle pellets as well. Prairie falcons are aggressive in defense of their territories and nests. They are agile in flight and may avoid predation through agility and aggression. Prairie falcons have been observed defending themselves against great horned owls, resulting in the death of the owl in some cases.

Known Predators:

  • great horned owls (Bubo virginianus)
  • golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos)
  • bobcats (Lynx rufus)
  • coyotes (Canis latrans)
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Goulet, M. 2007. "Falco mexicanus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Falco_mexicanus.html
author
Matthew Goulet, Kalamazoo College
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Ann Fraser, Kalamazoo College
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Tanya Dewey, Animal Diversity Web
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Associated Plant Communities

provided by Fire Effects Information System Animals
More info for the terms: forest, grassland, shrubland, woodland

Prairie falcons commonly occur in arid and semiarid shrubland and
grassland community types. They are also occasionally found in open
parklands within coniferous forests [21]. In the Sierra Nevada prairie
falcons are primarily associated with perennial grasslands, lodgepole
pine (Pinus contorta) of varying canopy closures, and alpine meadows
[34]. In British Columbia prairie falcons inhabit open treeless areas
including arid grasslands and sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) steppe, alpine
meadows and ridges, and less frequently, marshes and farmlands [12]. In
northeastern Wyoming prairie falcons prefer grassland habitats over
those with sagebrush when given the choice [33]. Prairie falcon habitat
in northern Mexico is a combination of forest, woodland, and chaparral
in the mountainous terrain surrounding the nest site, and grassland and
desert scrub on the open slopes and valleys used for foraging [23].
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Tesky, Julie L. 1994. Falco mexicanus. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Common Names

provided by Fire Effects Information System Animals
prairie falcon
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Tesky, Julie L. 1994. Falco mexicanus. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Conservation Status

provided by Fire Effects Information System Animals
Prairie falcon is under state monitor in Washington [39].
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Tesky, Julie L. 1994. Falco mexicanus. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Cover Requirements

provided by Fire Effects Information System Animals
More info for the term: cover

Nests are often recessed in a cliff to provide protection from mammalian
predators, shelter, and shade [1,12,27]. Nests are rarely located at
the top of a cliff [27]. In southwestern Idaho 60 percent of the nests
surveyed were in cavities that afforded some protection for the eggs and
young; 19 percent were on exposed ledges [26]. The need for cover does
not seem to affect Foraging behavior. Prairie falcons prefer to hunt in
open areas covered only by short, sparse ground vegetation [32].
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Tesky, Julie L. 1994. Falco mexicanus. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Distribution

provided by Fire Effects Information System Animals
Prairie falcons breed from central British Columbia, southern Alberta,
Saskatchewan, and North Dakota south to Baja California. They winter
from the northern parts of their breeding range south to central Mexico
and east to the Mississippi River [1,10,13,16].
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Tesky, Julie L. 1994. Falco mexicanus. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Food Habits

provided by Fire Effects Information System Animals
Prairie falcons eat a wide variety of prey including mammals, birds,
reptiles, and insects. In many areas mammals, primarily ground
squirrels, are the major prey item eaten during the breeding season
[16,19,32]. In areas lacking ground squirrels, small- to medium-sized
birds and reptiles are major prey items [16]. The horned lark is the
main food item for prairie falcons wintering in the wheat-growing areas
of the western United States [16,32].

Prairie falcons develop prey preferences and will concentrate on a
single species or group of species exclusively for as long as possible.
When those species have diminished in the hunting area, a new prey
species is selected and hunted [32].

Some prairie falcon prey items not mentioned above include pocket
gophers (Geomyidae), cottontails and jackrabbits (Leporidae), pikas
(Ochotona spp.), wood rats (Neotoma spp.), mice, mourning doves (Zenaida
macroura), burrowing owls (Athene cunicularia), jays (Corvidae), western
meadowlarks (Sturnella neglecta), blackbirds, shrikes (Lanius spp.),
wrens (Troglodytidae), lark buntings (Calamospiza melanocorys), magpies
(Pica spp.), sparrows (Emberizidae), quail (Phasianidae), longspurs
(Calcarius spp.), pigeons (Columbidae), ducks (Anatidae), lizards,
grasshoppers, and beetles [13,27,32].
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Tesky, Julie L. 1994. Falco mexicanus. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Habitat-related Fire Effects

provided by Fire Effects Information System Animals
More info for the terms: cover, fire exclusion, fire suppression, grassland, litter

Prairie falcons occur in the following five major fire-dependent plant
associations in the western United States: grasslands, semidesert
shrub-grasslands, sagebrush-grasslands, chaparral, and pinyon-juniper
(Pinus spp.-Juniperus spp.) [24].

Grassland raptors such as prairie falcons have been adversely affected
by fire exclusion wherever woodlands have encroached upon grasslands
[24]. Periodic fire may enhance the foraging habitat of prairie falcons
and increase the prey base [3,14,24]. Several studies indicate that
many small mammal and bird populations increase rapidly subsequent to
burning in response to increased food availability [14,24].
Additionally, fires in grasslands may increase prey availability by
removing accumulated litter and reducing cover [3]. Fire suppression in
grasslands is detrimental to populations of small bird and mammal
herbivores due to organic matter accumulation and reduced plant vigor
[35].

Raptors associated with pinyon-juniper woodlands depend upon edges of
openings created by fire and scattered islands of unburned woodlands
[14].

Although fire is often beneficial to prairie falcon prey species, Yensen
and others [36] reported that in the Snake River Birds of Prey Area,
southwestern Idaho, fire may reduce populations of Townsend's ground
squirrels (Spermophilus townsendii), a major prey species of prairie
falcons.
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Tesky, Julie L. 1994. Falco mexicanus. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Habitat: Cover Types

provided by Fire Effects Information System Animals
More info on this topic.

This species is known to occur in association with the following cover types (as classified by the Society of American Foresters):

66 Ashe juniper - redberry (Pinchot) juniper
67 Mohrs (shin) oak
68 Mesquite
217 Aspen
218 Lodgepole pine
220 Rocky Mountain juniper
222 Black cottonwood - willow
233 Oregon white oak
235 Cottonwood - willow
238 Western juniper
239 Pinyon - juniper
240 Arizona cypress
241 Western live oak
242 Mesquite
243 Sierra Nevada mixed conifer
246 California black oak
249 Canyon live oak
250 Blue oak - Digger pine
255 California coast live oak
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Tesky, Julie L. 1994. Falco mexicanus. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Habitat: Ecosystem

provided by Fire Effects Information System Animals
More info on this topic.

This species is known to occur in the following ecosystem types (as named by the U.S. Forest Service in their Forest and Range Ecosystem [FRES] Type classification):

More info for the term: shrub

FRES26 Lodgepole pine
FRES28 Western hardwoods
FRES29 Sagebrush
FRES30 Desert shrub
FRES31 Shinnery
FRES32 Texas savanna
FRES33 Southwestern shrubsteppe
FRES34 Chaparral-mountain shrub
FRES35 Pinyon-juniper
FRES36 Mountain grasslands
FRES37 Mountain meadows
FRES38 Plains grasslands
FRES39 Prairie
FRES40 Desert grasslands
FRES41 Wet grasslands
FRES42 Annual grasslands
FRES44 Alpine
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Tesky, Julie L. 1994. Falco mexicanus. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Habitat: Plant Associations

provided by Fire Effects Information System Animals
More info on this topic.

This species is known to occur in association with the following plant community types (as classified by Küchler 1964):

More info for the terms: cactus, forest, shrub, woodland

K008 Lodgepole pine - subalpine forest
K022 Great Basin pine forest
K023 Juniper - pinyon woodland
K024 Juniper steppe woodland
K026 Oregon oakwoods
K027 Mesquite bosque
K030 California oakwoods
K031 Oak - juniper woodlands
K032 Transition between K031 and K037
K034 Montane chaparral
K035 Coastal sagebrush
K037 Mountain-mahogany - oak scrub
K038 Great Basin sagebrush
K039 Blackbrush
K040 Saltbush - greasewood
K041 Creosotebush
K042 Creosotebush - bursage
K043 Paloverde - cactus shrub
K044 Creosotebush - tarbush
K045 Ceniza shrub
K047 Fescue - oatgrass
K048 California steppe
K050 Fescue - wheatgrass
K051 Wheatgrass - bluegrass
K052 Alpine meadows and barren
K053 Grama - galleta steppe
K054 Grama - tobosa prairie
K055 Sagebrush steppe
K056 Wheatgrass - needlegrass shrubsteppe
K057 Galleta - three-awn shrubsteppe
K058 Grama - tobosa shrubsteppe
K059 Trans-Pecos shrub savanna
K060 Mesquite savanna
K061 Mesquite - acacia savanna
K062 Mesquite - live oak savanna
K063 Foothills prairie
K064 Grama - needlegrass - wheatgrass
K065 Grama - buffalograss
K066 Wheatgrass - needlegrass
K067 Wheatgrass - bluestem - needlegrass
K068 Wheatgrass - grama - buffalograss
K069 Bluestem - grama prairie
K070 Sandsage - bluestem prairie
K071 Shinnery
K073 Northern cordgrass prairie
K074 Bluestem prairie
K075 Nebraska Sandhills prairie
K076 Blackland prairie
K077 Bluestem - sacahuista prairie
K083 Cedar glades
K085 Mesquite - buffalograss
K086 Juniper - oak savanna
K087 Mesquite - oak savanna
K088 Fayette prairie
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Tesky, Julie L. 1994. Falco mexicanus. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Management Considerations

provided by Fire Effects Information System Animals
More info for the terms: grassland, natural

The current breeding status of prairie falcons is unknown. In Utah
prairie falcons show reduced occupation rates at historical nests and
total extirpation from others. Some western Montana populations may not
be stable, while Idaho contains an apparently stable population. A
declining Canadian population has shown some recovery [9].

Breeding habitat loss is probably the most important factor threatening
prairie falcon populations. Artificial aeries with reinforcing frames
should be considered for prairie falcon management where development
activities affect the availability or useability of natural aeries or
where substrate conditions reduce aerie longevity [25,31].

Alteration of prey habitat has also had an impact on prairie falcon
populations [16]. Broad expanses of grassland and prairie with
occasional scattered trees provide excellent habitat for prairie
falcons. Unfortunately much of this habitat has been altered by
cultivation, water impoundments, or heavy grazing, which reduces the area
of suitable habitat for many prey species [20]. Range management
practices that produce or maintain ranges in good condition provide a
greater abundance and variety of prey for many raptor species including
prairie falcons [11].

Organochlorine contaminants and mercury appear to have been primarily
responsible for earlier prairie falcon declines because of direct
effects on prairie falcons and effects on their prey base. Restrictions
on DDT and mercury use have considerably alleviated the declines caused
by biocide pollution, but populations in areas of agricultural pesticide
use continue to show lowered reproduction. In areas where prairie
falcons feed primarily on birds, productivity and nest success are much
lower than where the diet is primarily mammalian. In California pest
control eliminated 1 million passerines from 1966 to 1972; roughly 30
percent of these were horned larks [16].

Human disturbance near prairie falcon nest sites during the breeding
season may result in nest abandonment [16]. Construction of homes at
the base of cliffs throughout the West has caused prairie falcons to
leave areas where they may have nested for generations [11]. High
levels of human disturbance near historical nesting territories were
thought to be responsible for declines of prairie falcons in the Mojave
Desert [9]. Boyce [9] suggested placing roads at least a 15-minute walk
from a prairie falcon nest, preferably a 30-minute walk. He also
suggests placing restrictions on recreational activities and/or closure
of habitat near nests if possible.

Prairie falcons are being bred successfully in captivity.
Captive-raised birds are being placed in wild aeries to help managers
develop techniques for reintroduction of peregrine falcons.
Captive-raised prairie falcons are also raised for falconry purposes
[16].
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Tesky, Julie L. 1994. Falco mexicanus. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Occurrence in North America

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AZ
CA
CO
ID
KS
MT
NE
NM
NV
ND

OK
OR
SD
TX
UT
WA
WY





AB
BC
SK













MEXICO


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Tesky, Julie L. 1994. Falco mexicanus. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Predators

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Adult prairie falcons are seldom killed by predators, although adult
incubating birds are sometimes taken by great horned owls (Bubo
virginianus) at night [16]. Predation by coyotes (Canis latrans), dogs
(Canis familiaris), badgers (Taxidea taxus), bobcats (Lynx rufus),
golden eagles, and great horned owls is probably the greatest overall
factor in nestling mortality by predators [16,26,32].
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Tesky, Julie L. 1994. Falco mexicanus. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Preferred Habitat

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Prairie falcons occupy open treeless terrain including prairies,
deserts, riverine escarpments, canyons, foothills, and mountains in
relatively arid western regions [13,16,32,34]. In the Sierra Nevada
prairie falcons range above timberline in late summer but winter at
lower elevations [34].

Nesting habitat - During the breeding season prairie falcons are
commonly found in foothills and mountains which provide cliffs and
escarpments suitable for nest sites [16]. Occasionally prairie falcons
nest at altitudes of 10,000 feet (3,048 m), although this is
exceptional. The highest recorded nest site is 11,699 feet (3,566 m) in
Colorado [32]. Prairie falcons generally nest on cliffs, from low rock
outcrops of 30 feet (9 m) to vertical cliffs 400 feet (121 m) high.
They prefer cliffs with a sheltered ledge with loose debris or gravel
for a nest, overlooking treeless country for hunting. They may also
nest in potholes or large caves [32]. Prairie falcons sometimes use old
nests of ravens (Corvus spp.), hawks, and golden eagles (Aquila
chrysaetos) [8,13,32]. Nest sites with southern or eastern exposures
are preferred. However, in southwestern Idaho no preference was noted
[16], and in the San Joaquin Valley, California, most prairie falcon
nests had northern exposures and no south-facing ledges were used [32].
Prairie falcons usually have alternate nesting sites located on the same
cliff and tend to use alternate ledges in succeeding years. Nesting
failure does not seem to deter use of the cliff in the following year
[32].

Of 36 nesting cliffs in Colorado and Wyoming, 14 were sandstone, 10 were
sedimentary conglomerate, 7 were limestone, and 5 were granite.
Twenty-two nesting ledges faced south, five faced north and nine faced
east or west [32]. In southeastern Montana and northern Wyoming,
Phillips and others [28] reported that all prairie falcon nests were
found in cracks or potholes in sandstone cliffs. The mean distance
between occupied nest sites was 4.8 miles (7.8 km) [28].

In British Columbia prairie falcon nests were situated on ledges, in
caves, in crevices, and in potholes on cliffs. Nesting cliffs were
granite or sandstone and ranged from 49 to 453 feet (15-138 m) in
height; the actual nest site ranged from 29 to 295 feet (9-90 m) from
the base of the cliff [12].

Foraging habitat - Prairie falcons generally forage in open areas with
low vegetation containing ground squirrels (Spermophilus spp.) and
passerine birds. They tend to have definite hunting ranges. When food
is plentiful these areas are confined to the least possible radius
necessary to secure required food supplies [32], but prairie falcons
will forage up to 15 miles (24 km) from the nest [21]. The usual
hunting method consists of flying at a altitude of 50 to 300 feet (15-91
m) and diving at potential prey. Prairie falcons also hunt from
perches. Prairie falcons often eat while perched on a convenient
vantage point or on the ground where they have captured their prey [32].
During the breeding season extra food is cached near the nest for
subsequent use [16].

Winter habitat - Winter habitat for prairie falcons is generally the
same as nesting habitat, except that high elevation areas are not used
[27]. In northern Colorado winter ranges (maximum distance between
observation points of individual marked birds) averaged 3.8 miles (6.1
km) for males and 7.2 miles (11.5 km) for females. The maximum range
was 12.1 miles (919.4 km) for one female [34].
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Tesky, Julie L. 1994. Falco mexicanus. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Regional Distribution in the Western United States

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More info on this topic.

This species can be found in the following regions of the western United States (according to the Bureau of Land Management classification of Physiographic Regions of the western United States):

1 Northern Pacific Border
2 Cascade Mountains
3 Southern Pacific Border
4 Sierra Mountains
5 Columbia Plateau
6 Upper Basin and Range
7 Lower Basin and Range
8 Northern Rocky Mountains
9 Middle Rocky Mountains
10 Wyoming Basin
11 Southern Rocky Mountains
12 Colorado Plateau
13 Rocky Mountain Piedmont
14 Great Plains
16 Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands
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Tesky, Julie L. 1994. Falco mexicanus. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Taxonomy

provided by Fire Effects Information System Animals
The currently accepted scientific name for the prairie falcon is Falco
mexicanus Schlegel. It is in the family Falconidae [2]. There are no
recognized subspecies.
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Tesky, Julie L. 1994. Falco mexicanus. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Timing of Major Life History Events

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More info for the term: selection

Age at sexual maturity - Some prairie falcons breed when 1 year old, but
most probably do not begin breeding until 2 years old [16,27].

Breeding season - The breeding season varies depending on geographic
area. Reproductive activity usually begins in late winter or early
spring. Courtship and mate selection occur on the breeding grounds at
least 1 month before egg laying [16]. In California prairie falcons
breed from mid-February to mid-September, with peak activity from early
May to early August [34]. In Nevada they arrive on the breeding grounds
in March and lay eggs in March or early April [19].

Clutch size and incubation - Prairie falcons generally lay three to six
eggs. The eggs are incubated for 29 to 33 days. If the first clutch is
destroyed another may be laid after 20 to 25 days [27,32].

Fledging - Nestlings fledge in 40 days [32].

Migration - Other than local movements to low elevations, many adult
prairie falcons tend to be residents on their breeding range if there is
an adequate year-round food supply [27,32]. During the nonbreeding
season most juveniles and some adult prairie falcons migrate to the
intermontane valleys and Great Plains [16]. Young prairie falcons in
Wyoming and Colorado often move eastward from mountainous areas to the
plains, where horned larks (Eremophila alpsetris) are numerous [27].
The adults seem to establish winter territories on their winter range
[32]. In north-central Utah migrant prairie falcons usually arrive in
the valleys in late October and remain there until March [27].

Longevity - Prairie falcons may live as long as 20 years; the longest
known banding recovery is 13 years. Immature mortality has been
estimated to be 75 percent and average annual adult mortality 25
percent. The average life expectancy of the prairie falcon has been
estimated at 2.4 years [16].
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bibliographic citation
Tesky, Julie L. 1994. Falco mexicanus. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Use of Fire in Population Management

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More info for the terms: climax, fire regime, herbaceous, prescribed fire

To create or maintain desert grasslands, prescribed burning at an
interval not less than 5 years is recommended. Periodic fire at
approximately 5-year intervals will probably maintain an open condition,
though burning over successive years may be necessary to eliminate woody
invaders. Five-year intervals between fires allow for herbaceous plant
recovery while not adversely affecting prey populations. The goal of
prescribed burning in chaparral should be to create opportunities for
perennial grass to extend the open grass-shrub character. Complete
elimination of climax chaparral species is not recommended. Periodic
fire at approximately 5-year intervals will probably maintain an open
condition. In most cases, burning plans must be integrated with proper
range management. Postfire seeding of perennial grasses as well as rest
from livestock grazing may be necessary to achieve desired goals.
Because of human disturbance, prescribed burning should be deferred
until nesting is completed in areas where impact to breeding prairie
falcons may occur [14]. For more information regarding the use of
prescribed fire in specific habitats for the benefit of raptors in
general, see Dodd [14].

FIRE REGIMES :
Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this
species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under
"Find FIRE REGIMES".
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Tesky, Julie L. 1994. Falco mexicanus. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Prairie falcon

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A prairie falcon in Arizona

The prairie falcon (Falco mexicanus) is a medium-large sized falcon of western North America. It is about the size of a peregrine falcon or a crow, with an average length of 40 cm (16 in), wingspan of approximately 1 meter (40 in), and average weight of 720 g (1.6 lb). As in all falcons, females are noticeably bigger than males. Though a separate species from the peregrine, the prairie falcon is basically an arid environment adaptation of the early peregrine falcon lineage, able to subsist on less food than the peregrine,[2] and generally lighter in weight than a peregrine of similar wing span. Having evolved in a harsh desert environment with low prey density, the prairie falcon has developed into an aggressive and opportunistic hunter of a wide range of both mammal and bird prey.[3] It will regularly take prey from the size of sparrows to approximately its own weight, and occasionally much larger. It is the only larger falcon native only to North America. It is resident from southern Canada, through western United States, and into northern Mexico. The prairie falcon is popular as a falconry bird, where with proper training it is regarded as being as effective as the more well known peregrine falcon.

Description

Male prairie falcons are usually 37 to 38 cm in length (~15 inches) and weigh 500 to 635g (1.1 to 1.4 lbs). Females are about 45 cm in length (17.7 inches) and weigh 762 to 970g (1.7 to 2.1 lbs).[4] A large female can be nearly twice the size of a small male, with wingspan reaching to 1.1 meters (3.5 feet), and tends to hunt significantly larger prey.

Plumage is warm gray-brown (sometimes called "sandy") above and pale with more or less dark mottling below. The darkest part of the upper side is the primary wing feathers; the lightest is the rump and tail, particularly the outer tail feathers. The head has a "moustache" mark like a peregrine falcon's but narrower, and a white line over the eye. A conspicuous character is that the axillars ("wingpits") and underwing coverts are black, except along the leading edge of the wing. This creates an effect of "struts" from the body along each wing.

Juveniles resemble adults except that they have dark streaks on the breast and belly and darker, less grayish upperparts.

Calls, heard mostly near the nest, are described as repetitive kree kree kree…, kik kik kik…, and the like, similar to the peregrine's but higher-pitched.[5]

Experts can separate a distant prairie falcon from a peregrine (generally the only similar species in its range) by its shape and flight style. The prairie falcon has a longer tail in proportion to its size; a more tubular, less stocky body; and the wing joint farther from the body. Its wingbeats are described as strong and shallow like the peregrine's and having the same quick cadence, but stiffer and more mechanical.[6]

Systematics and evolution

The prairie falcon outwardly resembles the peregrine as well as the Old World "hierofalcons", especially the saker falcon. It was previously often considered the only New World member of the hierofalcon subgenus, but in recent decades this assumption has been disproven by genetic analysis. DNA studies beginning in the 1980s have shown the prairie falcon to be closer to the peregrine than to the hierofalcons.[7][8] It now is considered an early aridland offshoot of the peregrine falcon lineage, much as the hierofalcons represent a later[9] separate divergence that similarly adapted to arid habitat. Thus, the similarities between the prairie falcon and the hierofalcons are a good example of convergent evolution, with the prairie falcon and similar looking and behaving Old World forms such as the saker and lanner falcons not being the closest of related species, but instead ecological equivalents.[10] However, "closely related" is a relative term here, since most or all the members of the genus falco are closely enough related that they can produce hybrid offspring via artificial insemination. But, only the most closely related of these species will produce fertile or partially fertile offspring.

The karyological data of Schmutz and Oliphant[11] provided early scientific evidence of the unexpectedly close relationship between the peregrine and prairie falcons. Wink and Sauer-Gürth[12] later estimated using molecular systematics that the prairie falcon diverged about 3 to 5 million years ago from an archaic peregrine ancestor, assuming a molecular clock calibration of 2% sequence divergence per 1 million years. The prairie falcon then evolved from its peregrine stock forebears in a process of parapatric speciation based on partially separated environments where different selective pressures lead to separate genetic drift and eventually to separate species. This process has led to the prairie falcon having enhanced survivability in the sparse arid environment that dominates the interior of the American west. This enhanced competitiveness in this environment is based on superior energy efficiency (being no larger than the prey base and competition with other raptors requires), and versatility in the utilization of a wider range of prey. Moderately lower weight than the muscular peregrine for similar wingspan not only allows lower food and energy requirements by the simple expedient of less muscle to support, but also allows a lighter wing loading (weight per square unit of wing area) that allows more distance to be covered per calorie consumed when hunting over prey sparse terrain.[13] The lighter wing loading also allows greater maneuverability, which is valuable in the pursuit of agile lightly wing loaded prey and rapidly dodging ground prey. When the prairie falcon locates needed prey, it is relentless in its pursuit. Quoting from the book The Prairie Falcon, "Because they evolved in the harsh western environment, prairie falcons have the stamina to out-fly the strongest quarry. They have the spirit to crash through dense cover when attacking prey, something peregrines seldom attempt."[14] In the longer distance lower prey density American west, the prairie falcon also has evolved eyes that are proportionally larger relative to head size than the already large eyes of other falcons.[15] The specialization of the prairie falcon to this particular environment is also reflected by the fact that there are no subspecies of the prairie falcon evolved to fit other environments, and that it seldom strays far outside the native range to which it is most suited and within which it has competitive advantages over the peregrine falcon.

Though they are separate species after several million years of mostly separate evolution, prairie falcons are known to still occasionally interbreed with peregrines in the wild.[16] The male offspring of these crossings may be fertile, and provide an avenue for at least some gene flow to possibly still occur between the species. Such gene flow in the past may have contributed to the continuing genetic closeness of the two species today.[7]

Ecology, behavior, and reproduction

The natural habitat of the prairie falcon is open country, especially arid, in summer including alpine tundra to shortgrass prairie and high desert. In winter it is more widespread, ranging to low deserts and occasionally to towns. It breeds from southern Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and south-central British Columbia south through the western United States–roughly between the eastern edge of the Mountain Time Zone and the Cascade Mountains, as well as the Central Valley of California–to the Mexican states of Baja California, Durango, and northern San Luis Potosí. It is much less migratory than the other North American falcons, but in winter it does withdraw somewhat from the northernmost and highest-elevation parts of its breeding range and spreads west to the deserts and Pacific coast of California, east to about the 100th meridian, and south to Baja California Sur, Jalisco, and Hidalgo.

The prairie falcon eats mostly small mammals (especially in summer) and small to medium-sized birds caught in flight, though as an opportunistic predator it will occasionally take larger birds. Though accounts of the prairie falcon taking prey as large as geese are verifiable (a prey that may be over 5 times heavier than a large female prairie falcon), it usually takes prey smaller than itself that it may safely subdue and which can be carried to the nest or to a safe perch to consume. The majority of prey is 150g or less, a weight that even the smaller tiercel (male) can carry long distances back to the nest.[17] Most prey is thus 30% or less of the weight of the tiercel, which is a common prey size fraction across numerous species of falcons where the males do the majority of the hunting during the nesting season. However, over shorter distances wildlife biologists have documented prairie falcons carrying up to about 60-70% of their body weight.[18] Common mammalian prey for prairie falcons includes squirrels, ground squirrels, prairie dogs, chipmunks, gophers, and rabbits of various species. Reptiles are also sometimes taken. Bird prey commonly includes sparrows, starlings, grackles, doves, quail, meadow larks, pigeons, coots, teal, and mallards—virtually any bird of up to approximately the falcon’s own size and occasionally significantly larger. However, the need to feed their young focuses them on prey they can carry during nesting season, and the reproductive success of the prairie falcon depends upon such smaller prey being available.[17]

In keeping with the needs of a predator living in a prey-sparse desert environment, the prairie falcon has developed a wide range of hunting and flight styles.[19] Like the Merlin, it often hunts by flying fast and low, at a height of only a few meters or so, hoping to find surprised prey as it comes over the terrain or around bushes. Its cruising speed is estimated at 72 km/h (45 mph) and it accelerates in the chase. A variation on this method is for the falcon to stoop down from altitude and then level out near the ground, initially traveling at more than 100 mph at altitudes of a meter or two, sometimes gliding for more than a kilometer this way.[20] If the rapidly approaching falcon flushes bird prey, the falcon has the speed advantage and may rapidly close with the prey. Another variation on these low attacks is using terrain as cover to approach beneath a flock of birds, then using its speed to perform a rapid climbing surprise attack into the flock.[21] It also pursues prey sighted from a perch in the manner of the short-winged accipiter hawks, again often flying low and using its speed to close with the prey in a tail-chase. Prairie falcons may even deliberately emulate the flight style of other birds in order to deceive potential prey and allow a surprise attack by the falcon.[22] The dramatic high speed diving stoop from high altitude in the manner of the peregrine falcon, allowing overtaking the swiftest of birds or delivering a knock-out blow to large prey, is also a very natural part of the hunting repertoire of the prairie falcon.[23] At impact the prey is hit with a closed foot or feet, or swiped with an open foot armed with talons. High-speed films have shown that this second method is the more common, with the toes closed into a “fist” immediately after striking. The claw on the hind toe, or hallux, is particularly effective and deadly in raking the prey.[24] When the closed foot strike is used it is typically directed against the head or wing of the prey, and if it does not outright kill, the prey is often rendered unconscious or unable to fly. These strikes are often accompanied by an explosion of feathers and an audible impact that may be heard from the ground hundreds of feet away. They have been known to be so forceful they can literally separate the head from the body of the prey.[25]

Territories of mated pairs in nesting season range from under 200 to over 400 square kilometers. Smaller territories where prey does not have to be carried as far enhances reproductive success.[26] This species nests on cliff ledges, so breeding adults are local during the breeding season. The clutch averages four eggs, which are subelliptical and pinkish with brown, reddish-brown, and purplish dots. As part of their adaptation to hotter and lower humidity desert climates, the eggs of the prairie falcon are less porous and retain water better than those of their peregrine falcon cousins,[27] leading to a higher hatching rate under these conditions. The incubation period is 31 days, beginning with the 2nd to last or last egg laid. Incubation becomes more intense after later eggs are laid, somewhat evening out hatching times. As is typical for falcons, the female does most of the incubating and brooding, and the male brings most of the food, with the female also hunting after the young are 12 to 14 days old. The young fledge (first fly) from 36 to 41 days after hatching. They continue to be supported by their parents while learning to fly and hunt, with the parents gradually winding down the amount of food they provide as the youngsters' hunting skills improve. At approximately 65 days of age they are ready to be self-sufficient, and disperse from their natal area.[28]

In its range the prairie falcon must compete for food and space with other often larger raptors including the peregrine falcon, red tailed hawk, Harris's hawk, ferruginous hawk, great horned owl, and golden eagle. The large, powerful, and surprisingly agile golden eagle is the apex avian predator in this range, and is generally willing and able to attack and kill any of these other raptors. Under the right circumstances all these species are capable of sometimes displacing and occasionally killing the prairie falcon. However, the prairie falcon will aggressively defend its territory against any of them, with male and female often mounting a coordinated attack, and often turns the tables on these larger raptors. Wildlife biologists report numerous observations of prairie falcons successfully driving away and sometimes killing raptors larger than themselves.[29] When a prairie falcon kills a larger raptor, it usually does so in a diving stoop with striking methods similar to what it uses against prey much larger than itself. It may use a foot with talons clinched like a fist to make a high energy strike against the head or wing of its opponent, or use an extended talon in a rapier like thrust to create a fatal wound. However, it is not a given that prairie falcons will always be in conflict with nearby raptors. In years when food is plentiful, prairie falcons have been known to nest within a few hundred meters of great horned owls, peregrine falcons, red-tailed hawks, and golden eagles, with both sets of parents successfully rearing their young.[30]

As of 2006, the population of prairie falcons was estimated to be stable or increasing at over 5,000 pairs,[31] with perhaps 200 pairs breeding at the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area in Idaho.[32] By contrast, in the years before DDT contamination extirpated the eastern U.S. peregrine falcon population in the 1950s and 1960s, the number of eastern peregrines in the United States had already dropped to about 350 pairs.[33] It is thought the prairie falcon mostly avoided the population loss suffered by the peregrine from DDT induced egg shell thinning due to its more remote environment partly insulating it from pesticide contamination.[34] The loss of peregrine population allowed the expansion of prairie falcon range to cliff nesting sites in areas formerly occupied by peregrines moderately outside historic prairie falcon territory. The successful reintroduction of peregrines to eastern and central United States brought peregrine and prairie falcons back into competition in these areas. The reintroduction program led by the Peregrine Fund bred and released more than 4,000 peregrine falcons from 1974 to 1997. The program necessarily made use of available captive bred peregrine stock with a strong genetic influence from larger bodied peregrine subspecies. The created strain of mixed subspecies peregrine tends to be heavier and stronger than the prairie falcon, and where they conflict over nesting sites they often displace prairie falcons.[35] However, these reintroduced peregrines are little threat to prairie falcon populations within their natural range, as the prairie falcon with its greater heat tolerance, lower daily food requirement, and wider prey base has the survival advantage in the harsh high desert environment in which it has evolved to prosper.

Use in falconry

This species is often used in falconry. It is the most popular falcon captured from the wild for falconry purposes in the United States, due to its abundance and relative ease to acquire. It is valued for its aggressiveness, agility, and determination to bring down game. Although some falconers considered the prairie falcon hard to train and unpredictable, others note that with proper training taking into account its impatient nature it may be as effective as the peregrine falcon. In his book The Hunting Falcon, biologist and falconer Bruce Haak states "In the field, the prairie falcon leaves no doubt that it can hold its own against the peregrine as a stylish and dedicated hunting companion."[36]

The smaller and more agile males are particularly effective in the taking of small game birds such as dove, quail, and smaller ducks, while the larger and more powerful females reliably take larger game up through the size of large ducks and even pheasants.[37] Some prairie falcons will strike still larger game such as geese and greater sage-grouse, but their willingness to do so runs the risk of injury to the falcon.[38][39] The sage-grouse in particular is difficult game, with the males weighing as much as 8 lbs, and being so hard-muscled that inexperienced falcons can easily be injured in striking them in a high-speed stoop. It takes a skilled falcon that knows how to forcefully but carefully and accurately strike them in the head or wing to bring them down cleanly. For this difficult prey experienced falconers usually prefer larger peregrine females, gyrfalcons, or gyr-peregrine hybrids,[40] though some female prairie falcons do master the art of bringing down larger game.[38]

Proper training for prairie falcons includes providing abundant food when raising them (to avoid them developing the habit of screaming for food), and extensive "manning" (close contact and handling) when training them.[41] Unlike the peregrine, they do not respond well to training with the swung lure, as missing the lure brings out their impatience. Teaching prairie falcons to climb and “wait on” to stoop on game is best accomplished by a reward system of flushing game or serving live birds such as pigeons for the falcon to chase when the falcon has assumed the proper position several hundred feet or more above the falconer. The prairie falcon’s eagerness to hunt and chase requires that it be patiently taught that when it assumes the proper waiting on position the falconer can be trusted to reliably flush game.[42] As the falcon comes to understand this, it learns to hunt as an effective team with the falconer.

The availability of commercially bred falcons has in recent years reduced the need to capture falcons from the wild for use in falconry.[43] The prairie falcon along with the peregrine and gyrfalcon is now often available via captive breeding. The prairie falcon is also sometimes hybridized with the peregrine falcon or gyrfalcon to create a falcon combining the aggressiveness and heat tolerance of the prairie falcon with the easier trainability and slightly greater strength of the larger peregrine subspecies, or the greater horizontal speed and significantly larger size and strength of the gyrfalcon.

Gallery

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    Prairie falcon - gyrfalcon hybrid at Avian Conservation Center, near Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Footnotes

  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Falco mexicanus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013..mw-parser-output cite.citation{font-style:inherit}.mw-parser-output q{quotes:"""""'"'"}.mw-parser-output code.cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:inherit;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-free a{background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/65/Lock-green.svg/9px-Lock-green.svg.png")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-registration a{background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d6/Lock-gray-alt-2.svg/9px-Lock-gray-alt-2.svg.png")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-subscription a{background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/aa/Lock-red-alt-2.svg/9px-Lock-red-alt-2.svg.png")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration{color:#555}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription span,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration span{border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration,.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-right{padding-right:0.2em}
  2. ^ Pirate of the Plains, Bruce Haak, Hancock House Publishers, 1995, ISBN 0-88839-320-2, p.69
  3. ^ The Hunting Falcon, Bruce Haak, Hancock House, ISBN 0-88839-292-3, 1992, p. 60
  4. ^ The Prairie Falcon, Stanley Anderson and John Squires, University of Texas Press, ISBN 0-292-75148-6, 1997, p. 8
  5. ^ Icenoggle, Radd (2003). Birds in Place. Helena, MT, USA: Farcountry Press. p. 163. ISBN 978-1-56037-241-7.
  6. ^ Dunne, Sibley & Sutton (1989)
  7. ^ a b "Phylogenetic relationships among Falcon species (genus Falco) according to DNA sequence variation of cytochrome b gene", A.J. Helbig et al., Raptor Conservation Today, 1994
  8. ^ "Phylogenetic Relationships in the Hierofalco Complex (Saker-, Gyr-,Lanner-, Lagger Falcon)", Michael Wink et al., Raptors Worldwide, 2004
  9. ^ Earlier results that suggested the hierofalcons to be the most ancient group of living falcons (Helbig et al. 1994, Wink et al. 1998) based on mtDNA cytochrome b sequence data were in error due to presence of a numt in the hierofalcons (Wink & Sauer-Gürth 2000).
  10. ^ Helbig et al. (1994), Wink et al. (1998), Griffiths (1999), Wink & Sauer-Gürth (2000), Wink et al. (2004), Nittinger et al. (2005)
  11. ^ "Chromosome study of peregrine, prairie, and Gyrfalcons with implications for hybrids", Schmutz S.M. and Oliphant W., Journal of Heredity, 1987, 78:388-390
  12. ^ "Advances in the molecular systematics of African raptors", Wink M. and Sauer-Gürth H, pp. 135-147 in R.D. Chancellor and B.-U. Meyburg (eds.), "Raptors at Risk", World Working Group on Birds of Prey, Berlin, and Hancock House, 2000
  13. ^ The Hunting Falcon,Haak, p.60
  14. ^ Anderson and Squires, p.114
  15. ^ Anderson and Squires, p. 25
  16. ^ "Hybridization Between a Peregrine Falcon and a Prairie Falcon in the Wild", Lynn Oliphant, Journal of Raptor Research, 1991
  17. ^ a b Anderson and Squires, p. 45
  18. ^ Anderson and Squires, p. 44
  19. ^ The Hunting Falcon,Haak, pp 59-62
  20. ^ Anderson and Squires, p. 29
  21. ^ Anderson and Squires, p.31
  22. ^ Anderson and Squires, p.32
  23. ^ The Hunting Falcon,Haak, p.61
  24. ^ Falcons of North America, Kate Davis, Kindle location 546, Mountain Press Publishing Company, ISBN 9780878425532
  25. ^ Davis, Kindle location 546
  26. ^ Anderson and Squires, p.24
  27. ^ The Hunting Falcon,Haak, pp 209-210
  28. ^ Anderson and Squires, p. 76
  29. ^ Anderson and Squires, pp. 45-50
  30. ^ Anderson and Squires, p.47 and p.50
  31. ^ "Prairie falcon (Falco mexicanus)". Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area. Bureau of Land Management. Archived from the original on January 12, 2006. Retrieved June 1, 2016.
  32. ^ "Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area". Federal Transit Administration. Archived from the original on March 6, 2005. Retrieved June 1, 2016.
  33. ^ Pirate of the Plains, p.62
  34. ^ Pirate of the Plains, p.8
  35. ^ "Peregrine and Prairie Falcon Interaction: Boulder County Open Space, Boulder Mountain Park", Andrew Orahoske, April 1999, accessed at https://www-static.bouldercolorado.gov/docs/4477_Orahoske_Andrew_Peregrine-1-201307151442.pdf, June 4, 2016.
  36. ^ The Hunting Falcon, Haak, p.61
  37. ^ The Hunting Falcon,Haak, p.59
  38. ^ a b The Hunting Falcon, Haak, p.59,
  39. ^ Anderson and Squires, p. 115
  40. ^ Falconer on the Edge, Rachel Dickinson, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009, ISBN 978-0-618-80623-2, pp.64-65
  41. ^ Anderson and Squires, pp. 115-116
  42. ^ The Hunting Falcon, Haak, pp. 121-130
  43. ^ The Hunting Falcon,Haak, pp 203-206

References

  • Sibley, David Allen (2000): The Sibley Guide to Birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. ISBN 0-679-45122-6
  • Dunne, Pete, Sibley, David Allen & Sutton, Clay (1989): Hawks in Flight. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-51022-8
  • Griffiths, Carole S. (1999): Phylogeny of the Falconidae inferred from molecular and morphological data. Auk 116(1): 116–130. PDF fulltext
  • Helbig, A.J.; Seibold, I.; Bednarek, W.; Brüning, H.; Gaucher, P.; Ristow, D.; Scharlau, W.; Schmidl, D. & Wink, Michael (1994): Phylogenetic relationships among falcon species (genus Falco) according to DNA sequence variation of the cytochrome b gene. In: Meyburg, B.-U. & Chancellor, R.D. (eds.): Raptor conservation today: 593-599. PDF fulltext
  • Howell, Steven N. G. & Webb, Sophie (1995): A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America. Oxford University Press, Oxford & New York. ISBN 0-19-854012-4
  • Nittinger, F.; Haring, E.; Pinsker, W.; Wink, Michael & Gamauf, A. (2005): Out of Africa? Phylogenetic relationships between Falco biarmicus and other hierofalcons (Aves Falconidae). Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research 43(4): 321-331. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0469.2005.00326.x PDF fulltext
  • Wink, Michael & Sauer-Gürth, Hedi (2000): Advances in the molecular systematics of African raptors. In: Chancellor, R.D. & Meyburg, B.-U. (eds): Raptors at Risk: 135-147. WWGBP/Hancock House, Berlin/Blaine. PDF fulltext
  • Wink, Michael; Seibold, I.; Lotfikhah, F. & Bednarek, W. (1998): Molecular systematics of holarctic raptors (Order Falconiformes). In: Chancellor, R.D., Meyburg, B.-U. & Ferrero, J.J. (eds.): Holarctic Birds of Prey: 29-48. Adenex & WWGBP. PDF fulltext
  • Wink, Michael; Sauer-Gürth, Hedi; Ellis, David & Kenward, Robert (2004): Phylogenetic relationships in the Hierofalco complex (Saker-, Gyr-, Lanner-, Laggar Falcon). In: Chancellor, R.D. & Meyburg, B.-U. (eds.): Raptors Worldwide: 499-504. WWGBP, Berlin. PDF fulltext

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Prairie falcon: Brief Summary

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 src= A prairie falcon in Arizona

The prairie falcon (Falco mexicanus) is a medium-large sized falcon of western North America. It is about the size of a peregrine falcon or a crow, with an average length of 40 cm (16 in), wingspan of approximately 1 meter (40 in), and average weight of 720 g (1.6 lb). As in all falcons, females are noticeably bigger than males. Though a separate species from the peregrine, the prairie falcon is basically an arid environment adaptation of the early peregrine falcon lineage, able to subsist on less food than the peregrine, and generally lighter in weight than a peregrine of similar wing span. Having evolved in a harsh desert environment with low prey density, the prairie falcon has developed into an aggressive and opportunistic hunter of a wide range of both mammal and bird prey. It will regularly take prey from the size of sparrows to approximately its own weight, and occasionally much larger. It is the only larger falcon native only to North America. It is resident from southern Canada, through western United States, and into northern Mexico. The prairie falcon is popular as a falconry bird, where with proper training it is regarded as being as effective as the more well known peregrine falcon.

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