Are There Falcons In Iowa?

If you are a bird watcher currently in Iowa or planning to go there, you’re in luck. Because there are at least four species of falcons in Iowa, one of the most striking birds who are predators by nature. Wherever you go, you are likely to notice a couple of species of them around.

You’ll mostly come across the American Kestrel, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, and Praire Falcon.

While there are two more species found in the United States, we’ll only be discussing the ones found in Iowa.

Are There Falcons in Iowa

Yes, there are falcons in Iowa. Falcons are from the family Falconidae, order Falconiformes, genus Falco. They have around 40 species.

As mentioned earlier, four species of falcons are vastly recorded in Iowa. They are:

  • Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)
  • American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)
  • Merlin (Falco columbarius)
  • Prairie Falcon (Falco mexicanus)

Peregrine Falcon

  • Scientific name: Falco peregrinus
  • Length: 14.2-19.3 in
  • Weight: 18.7-56.4 oz
  • Wingspan: 29-47 inches / 74-120 cm

Commonly Found in: Peregrine falcons are usually found all over the world. But they prefer locations that are big and spacious. In cities with tall buildings, you can spot falcons perching on the sides of tall places. Moreover, they can also be found in mountain ranges, river valleys, and coastlines.

Behavior or Characteristics:

Peregrine falcons are often termed one of the deadliest birds of prey. Faster than even a cheetah, these birds are predators of around 450 species of bird. However, if they can’t have access to any bird, they are also seen pursuing bats for meals.

A common characteristic of falcons is that female birds are larger than male birds. Peregrine falcons don’t make a sound. But near its nest, it makes a kack-kack-kack sound which is used as a warning signal amongst them.

Fun Fact:

Peregrine Falcons have earned the title of the fastest animal on earth. Even more than a cheetah, their sharp movement is noticeable.

American Kestrel

Scientific name: Falco sparverius

Length: 8.7-12.2 in

Weight: 2.8-5.8 oz

Wingspan: 20.1-24.0 in

Commonly Found in: American Kestrels are commonly seen around almost the whole continent. They are a common sight in Iowa throughout the year.

In North America, American Kestrels are the most common species of falcon. Starting from parks, pastures, meadows, and grasslands, they are seen almost everywhere.

Behavior or Characteristics:

These falcons might be the smallest in kind, but they are still vicious hunters. Their size only helps them be stealthier than others. They are light to fly at low heights to search for food.

Their food habits include taking small rodents, small birds, insects, and other invertebrates. American Kestrels have a dietary habit that allows them to adapt well in all cold and hot regions.

Even though these small falcons are sharp and vicious, their size poses a disadvantage in front of larger prey, so they are sometimes eaten as their food too.

American Kestrels are also found to be comfortable around humans. It can also use nest boxes made by people for raising their younger ones.

Interesting Fact:

Interestingly, these falcons are called different than most other species of falcons because males and females of this species look very different from each other. An American Kestrel is often called Sparrow Hawk.


Scientific name: Falco columbarius

Length: 9.4-11.8 in

Weight: 5.6-8.5 oz

Wingspan: 20.9-26.8

Commonly Found in: Merlins are comparatively bigger in size than American Kestrels. Their physique is still different. Although Merlins can be seen in Iowa throughout the year, they are still one of the hardest to observe.

Merlins are seen most in Iowa during the migration season of these birds.

Behavior or Characteristics:

Merlins are small, but they are fierce. Like a hummingbird, their wings move rapidly. You can easily identify a Merlin out of other falcon species by this characteristic. Merlins cannot build nests on their own. Similar to other falcons, merlins are found reusing the nests of other birds.

Just like other falcons, the food diet of merlin is diverse, consisting of insects, reptiles, and so on. Merlin obtains its most nutrition from small birds.

The color of the body of merlin falcons can also differ. A male merlin falcon has a different coloring than a female merlin falcon.

Interesting fact:

Merlins are small falcon species, but they are vicious. They are very bold. It has been observed that merlins can even attack cars and trains if any enter their territory.

Prairie Falcon

Scientific name: Falco mexicanus

Length: 14.6-18.5 in

Weight: 14.8-38.8 oz

Wingspan: 35.4-44.5 in

Commonly Found in: Prairie Falcons are pretty looking falcons found in Iowa during the winter season most of the time. These falcons are noticed in the open regions. Grasslands, farm friends, and pastures are good places to look for prairie falcons.

Behavior or Characteristics:

Their size is similar to a crow. A triangular shape is under their wings, which can be used to identify them.

Prairie falcons have flexible dietary habits. They eat anything that is available mostly in the particular season and is easy to prey on. In summer, they eat small mammals, but in winter, they have birds. Some also keep food stored when it is not easily available.

Fun Fact:

These Prairie Falcons are playful. They have a habit of picking up manure, dropping it from a high level, and rushing to catch it. It is believed that this helps them to get better at hunting their prey and be quick.

Final Words

So, these are the four falcons in Iowa despite there being six species spotted across the United States. Even though they belong to the same genus, their species vary a lot. As a result, different characteristics and very diverse physiques are noticed in them.

Falcons are hunter birds. Size has no meaning to them, as they are very fast, fierce, and sharp with their actions. These falcons can never be treated like other pet birds but can be trained for certain activities.


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