Which Falcons in Pennsylvania Can You Spot?

Falcons are genuinely one of the most beautiful birds you can spot. However, as these birds are known for their speed, you might not always have the chance to spot one. To be exact, they can fly at a recording speed of up to 200 mph! Nonetheless, the main question is, can you spot falcons in Pennsylvania?

You can definitely spot falcons in Pennsylvania. In fact, there are three different species available in the state. They are the Merlin, the American Kestrel, and the Peregrine.

Want to know what are the attributes of each of these falcons so that you can easily recognize one? Well, all you need to do is to keep on reading. By doing so, you can learn not only about their attributes but also the special features of each. So, let’s get started, shall we?

1. Merlin (Falco columbarius)

These birds of raptors are mostly found in Pennsylvania during their migration season. They fly in the state’s skies while migrating from their winter grounds, which are along the Atlantic Coast. Some also come from their breeding grounds, which are in Canada.


Merlins are not easy to spot. They mostly remain perched at the highest point of the area, where they scan for their next target. However, if you do happen to encounter one, check their body size. They are known to be small in size. To be exact, they are between a crow and a robin in terms of size.

In addition to the small body size, Merlin falcons have dark tones throughout their bodies. Along with that, they have a streaky pattern in their bodies. They are also known to have medium-length tails and broad chests.


These falcons spend a lot of time scanning the area they are in. In general, their diet consists of small birds. However, when there are not many small birds around the area, Merlins can be found munching on insects and small mammals.

Nesting Preference and Eggs

These raptors generally nest on the ground, buildings, cliff ledges, and cavities in trees. The breeding season of these birds starts in May. And they tend to breed through June.

If you happen to come across their nests during the breeding season, you can find 4 to 5 eggs inside. Their eggs are typically rusty brown with chestnut or brown markings.

2. American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)

Your chances of coming across the American Kestrel are higher than any other falcon in Pennsylvania. These birds of prey are available in the state all year round. And the best thing about them is that they are pretty much available throughout the state.


The size of the American Kestrel is pretty similar to Mourning Dove. However, these raptors have larger heads than those doves. Besides, they are known for having narrow and longer wings and square-tipped tails. When they are in flight, these birds of prey tend to bend their wings and sweep their wingtips back.

When it comes to the color pattern, these raptors are warm in color. They generally have a black upper body and a black band around the tip of their tails. Males are often spotted with state-blue wings, while females with reddish brown wings.


The diet of the American Kestrel mostly consists of voles. However, when voles are unavailable in the area, they will feast on small mammals such as shrews and wood mice. Also, don’t be surprised if you spot them munching on small birds, earworms, and insects.

Nesting Preference and Eggs

These birds of prey prefer to nest in cavities. However, they cannot excavate on their own. Instead, they rely on holes left by woodpeckers. So, expect them to be present around natural tree hollows, nooks in the buildings, and rock crevices.

The breeding time of these birds starts early in spring and continues till late summer. However, the breeding season can vary with respect to the area they are in. And in the breeding season, their nests can have anywhere from 4 to 5 eggs.

3. Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)

Did you know that peregrine falcons were considered to be threatened in Pennsylvania? Well, the good news is that in September 2021, the conservationists announced that these raptors are no longer on that list anymore. That means you can easily spot one of these magnificent raptors in the skies of the state.


These birds of prey are known to have dark brown backs, blue-gray wings, and buff-colored undersides. It is common for their underparts to have brown sides. And generally, their faces are white, but they have a black tear stripe around their cheeks.


The diet of the Peregrine birds mostly consists of birds. They munch on a wide variety of birds, which includes shorebirds and ducks. But, mostly, they tend to take on the large-sized ones, including the large gulls, geese, and loons. They can also munch on seldom insects, small mammals, and carrions.

Nesting Preferences and Eggs

Quarry, cliff ledges, and other inaccessible and undisturbed locations are the preferred nesting spots of peregrine falcons. The breeding season of these raptors starts in early April. They breed through July. Females are known to lay 3 to 4 eggs, which are typically smaller than chicken eggs.

NameLengthWeightWingspanCommonly Found InBehaviorFun Fact
Merlin9.4 inches to 11.8 inches0.35 pounds to 0.53 pounds20.9 inches to 26.8 inchesLarge and wide spaces around the state and in open fields.Fierce and energetic.Merlin falcons do not build their own nest. Instead, they reuse abandoned nests of crows and other raptors.
American Kestrel  8.7 inches to 12.2 inches0.175 pounds to 0.3625 pounds20.1 inches to 24.0 inchesOpen habitats and places with an adequate number of cavities.Fierce and patient hunter.American Kestrel is the smallest species of falcon in North America.
Peregrine Falcon14.2 inches to 19.3 inches1.16 pounds to 3.525 pounds39.4 inches to 43.3 inchesMostly around river valleys and along mountain ranges.Fierce hunter but remains relatively active during the day.Peregrine falcons can reach up to 240 miles per hour when hunting.


So, the main takeaway from this discussion is that you can spot a total of three falcons in Pennsylvania. They are American Kestrel, Merlin, and Peregrine. But among these three, American Kestrel is more common than the others.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *