Falcons of Connecticut (3 Species to Know)

Falcons are the stealth fighter jets of the bird world. Recording some of the fastest speeds of all winged animals, these dynamic flyers are captivating to watch.

There are three species of falcons that can be found in Connecticut on an annual basis. Here is everything you need to know about those three species.

American Kestrel

American Kestrel
Identification

The American Kestrel is a small and colorful bird. Males have a rusty colored back as well as a lighter rusty colored underside. They have blue on their wings and the top of their head as well as black markings near their eye. Females are lighter overall with rusty orange barring on their wings, back, and tail.

Range

American Kestrels live in both South America and North America. In North America, Kestrels are migratory and reside in Mexico in winter, then move into Canada during the breeding season. Throughout much of the United States, American Kestrels can be found year round.

Diet and Foraging Habits

American Kestrels eat small creatures including insects, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and rodents. In terms of the insects they eat, some of the most commonly consumed are grasshoppers, dragonflies, and cicadas.

Where to Find this Bird

American Kestrels are a common sight along roadsides and in open fields. They can be seen on telephone poles and wires in addition to perched on dead trees and other structures in areas with few trees. Other places Kestrels can be found are urban parks, pastures, and farm fields.

Merlin

Merlin (Bill Thompson photo)
Identification

Merlins are very small members of the falcon family looking similar in size to a Mourning Dove. They have a blueish gray to black back, wings, and head, and a buffy to brown streaked underside. Merlins can differ in color based on region but always maintain a somewhat similar appearance. Most of the time they will have a white eyebrow stripe.

Range

Merlins winter in Northern South America, Central America, Mexico, the Southeastern United States, and most of the Western United States. In spring they migrate north ending up in only the most Northern parts of the U.S. and much of Canada and Alaska. There is an area from the Northwestern part of the United States to the Southwestern part of Alaska where Merlins live year round. Some individuals stay all winter in Northern states as well.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Merlins primarily eat small birds such as waxwings, sparrows, and even shorebirds. In addition to birds, they also eat insects and rodents.

Where to Find this Bird

Merlins can be tricky to find as encountering one typically seems like a matter of luck. They can be found in wooded areas as well as in open areas where they will be surveying for food. Sometimes the easiest way to see them is in flight when they will be moving at high speeds.

Personal Experience: It seems like if I ever go out intentionally trying to find Merlins there aren’t any around. Each year I typically find one by chance while out birding. It seems that even though they aren’t necessarily supposed to winter in the northern U.S. that is when I see them most.

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon (Betsy Matsubara Photo – CC by 2.0)
Identification

Peregrine Falcons are iconic birds with a dark back, wings, head, and neck. They have a light underside with dark barring and noticeable bright yellow legs. This species has interesting facial markings that some people refer to as “sideburns” but is essentially dark coloration coming down below the eye onto the cheeks of the bird.

Range

The Peregrine Falcon’s range in North America is complicated with a general pattern of wintering in the Southeastern United States and Mexico, summering in Northern Canada, and migrating throughout the rest of the continent. However, there are many places in the continental United States that Peregrine Falcons breed in during summer (such as along Lake Superior) and live year round (such as most of the Pacific Coast, and around the Great Lakes).

This species not only lives in North America, but every other continent as well with the exception of Antarctica.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Peregrine Falcons are the fastest fliers in the entire animal kingdom reaching normal speeds of around 70 miles per hour and a diving speed of around 200 miles per hour. They use this incredible speed to hunt medium sized birds such as doves and ducks, but they have been observed taking on an extremely wide array of different bird species. Peregrine Falcons will also eat fish, and mammals.

Where to Find this Bird

Peregrine Falcons have adapted well to human habitation and use skyscrapers as nesting sites. In more wild areas they will use cliffs as nest sites. Peregrine Falcons can be reliable sights in places where people have placed nest boxes specifically for the species to breed in. Often times these places have corresponding nest cams.

Summary

Falcons are always entertaining to see, and knowing which ones to expect in the state can be a key part of correctly identifying the bird you are seeing. If you enjoyed this post, please give it a like and a comment. Also be sure to check out the Badgerland Birding Youtube Channel.

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