- Photo: Ned Harris
Powered flight is rapid and direct with moderately fast, shallow, stiff wingbeats.
Prairie Falcons are large pale falcons that are uncommon residents in SE Arizona. Their numbers swell in the wintertime due to an influx of birds from the north. The author has seen them on four occasions in lower Sabino.
They are sandy brown above and whitish below. The square, blocky pale head has a white superciliary line (contrasting line above the eye) with a single narrow dark mustache mark on each cheek. In flight, the dark “armpits” on the underwings, known as axillaries, are diagnostic field marks.
Prairie Falcons are generally solitary except for the breeding season. The author once observed courtship flight by a pair of them directly over the riparian area in lower Sabino.
They hunt both from a perch and in flight. Small and medium sized rodents, small rabbits and small to medium sized birds are their primary prey.
Powered flight is rapid and direct with moderately fast, shallow, stiff wingbeats. Once you are familiar with this style of flight, they become easy to identify in flight. A high-speed ground-skimming flight profile is often used when hunting avian prey. The wings are held flat when soaring and gliding. If wind velocity is sufficiently high, Prairie Falcons will kite for short periods of time.
Prairie Falcons normally breed when two years old. No nests are built. Nest sites are typically scraped depressions on cliffs with a protective overhang. The female assumes the nest duties while the male hunts. Four or five eggs are laid and are incubated 29-34 days. Youngsters fledge in 36-41 days and are independent in as little as 60 days.
This photograph was taken in November 2011 not far from Sabino.