Here’s All You Need To Know About Falcons In Utah!

Falcons might have a cute face with pretty feather markings – but don’t let those characteristics fool you. The fowl species in question is, in fact, a raptor, more commonly known as a bird of prey. So despite the deceiving looks, falcons are predators!

If you’re wondering whether you will find falcons in Utah, the answer is yes! In fact, there are several different kinds of falcons you can spot in this area which will bring out the inner bird enthusiast in you. So without further ado, let’s go right ahead.

Are There Falcons in Utah?

Considering that Utah is a mountain state, you will most definitely find several species of falcon here. Apart from being one of the fastest types of birds in the world, there are many amazing things about falcons and their different species.

And the best part about all that is that you can spot these creatures flying around in your hometown!

We have listed out the five kinds of falcons you might see in the Utah sky or just perching on a tall building. Specific details have been included so that you instantly recognize the species.

Types of Falcons in Utah

Here are the five types of falcons you will commonly find in the Utah mountain state:

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

Falcon Species Profile and Details

Now that you know the different variations of this raptor, here are some further details for each species.

1. Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)

Quick Species Profile

  • Length: 14.2 – 19.3 inches
  • Weight: 0.73 – 2.20 lbs. (males) and 1.5 – 3.3 lbs. (females)
  • Wingspan: 29 – 47 inches
  • Commonly found in: North America (all over Utah), Europe, Mexico

Physical Appearance:

Peregrine falcons can be distinguished by their blue-grey back and head with horizontal plumage on the breast. The females are about 30% larger in size compared to males. Younger peregrine falcons appear brownish in color rather than grey.

Their underparts are barred, usually in shades of white, dark brown, and black. The top part of the beak (known as the cere) is yellow like their feet, while the tip of the beak and talons are black. A sharp curve ends at the tip of the beak, allowing the shape to kill the prey from the spinal cord directly.

Special Characteristics:

The peregrine falcon holds the status of being the fastest bird in the world! They can reach a speed of up to 200 miles per hour, which is more than a cheetah can achieve.

Peregrine falcons are carnivorous and eat other small birds, such as pigeons. Before grabbing their prey, this falcon flies around straight for nearly half a mile and then makes a sudden, sharp stoop to catch the prey with their claws.

Fun Fact:

Falcons have super-vision powers. Meaning, they can see about eight times clearer and sharper than human eyes can. They also have an additional eyelid that moves vertically, which helps to create a better focus on the prey while hunting.

2. American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)

Quick Species Profile

  • Length: 8.7 – 12.2 inches
  • Weight: 0.17 – 0.32 lbs. (males) and 0.2 – 0.36 lbs. (females)
  • Wingspan: 20 – 24 inches
  • Commonly found in: North America (all over Utah), Central America, South America, deserts, moorlands, meadows, grasslands, and open areas.

Physical Appearance:

This type of falcon is easy to distinguish because of its small size. Female kestrels have a rusty brown shade on their head, back, and wings, while males have contrasting blue-grey heads.

American kestrels have a light body that helps them to maneuver their flight and with comparatively strong and heavy claws and beaks.

The most distinguishable part of this falcon is the dark marking they have on each side of its face. It is possible that these exist to confuse larger predators, for they appear as “false eyes”.

Special Characteristics:

American kestrels are the most common bird of prey that hunters use in falconry as they are easy to train. These birds are carnivores and typically feed on large insects, rodents, and smaller birds.

Fun Fact:

Despite being a bird of prey, American kestrels can easily fall prey to larger predators because of their small size. They have to work with extra stealth to hide from bigger birds and even snakes.

3. Merlin (Falco columbarius)

Quick Species Profile

  • Length: 9 – 13 inches
  • Weight: 0.35 – 0.53 lbs.
  • Wingspan: 21 – 23 inches
  • Commonly found in: North America (all over Utah) and Eurasia.

Physical Appearance:

Merlin falcons are very small but are extremely fierce! Their plumage is usually light to dark brown in color.

Special Characteristics:

Merlins have a sharp and distinctive call, which is very shrill. Along with small birds, their diet consists of rodents, dragonflies, reptiles, and bats. They are strong fliers, and you can most likely catch these flying in Utah during winter.

Fun Fact:

These birds were also known as “pigeon hawks” and were popular among noblemen and women during the medieval period for hunting skylarks.

4. Prairie Falcon (Falco mexicanus)

Quick Species Profile

  • Length: 15 – 18 inches
  • Weight: 1.1 – 1.4 lbs. (males) and 1.7 – 2.1 lbs. (females)
  • Wingspan: 3.5 feet
  • Commonly found in: North America (mostly in the west), Southern Canada, Northern Mexico

Physical Appearance:

Prairie falcons have gorgeous plumage in grayish brown, with a white breast and underside covered with brown dots. A striking dark outline covers the edges of the inside of the wings. The giant wingspan would be hard to miss in the air if you are in Utah.

Special Characteristics:

These raptors are extremely protective of their nests and will kill any creature in the way that they think serves as a threat. Although these birds are big in size, it can sometimes be hard to spot them as they are very quick and always on the move. You will rarely find them perching on a tree or building.

Small mammals are a common diet for prairie falcons. Their preys include gophers, squirrels, prairie dogs, and even rabbits.

Fun Fact:

To increase their coordination skills, prairie falcons like to “play” by dropping small things from above and then diving to catch them.

5. Gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus)

Quick Species Profile

  • Length: 19 – 25.5 inches
  • Weight: 1 – 2 lbs. (males) and 2 – 4 lbs. (females)
  • Wingspan: 4 – 5.3 feet
  • Commonly found in: Arctic regions in North America, Europe, and Asia.

Physical Appearance:

By looking at the profile information, you can already tell how big these raptors are. In fact, gyrfalcons are the largest species of falcon in the world.

The colors of their feather can vary. They appear all white, silver, grey, and also brown, and grey-black with small markings all over their wings and underparts.

Special Characteristics:

Gyrfalcons usually breed in colder areas such as Alaska and other countries in the north. They will typically eat any game they are able to hunt but usually go for medium-sized mammals and birds.

Mostly, these raptors eat birds such as ptarmigans, pheasants, hawks, and even other smaller species of the falcon!

Another known characteristic about gyrfalcons is that they mate for life. So basically, they are “married” and do not pursue another mate unless one of them dies.

Fun Fact:

Despite their large size, gyrfalcons are common in falconry and are very clever hunters when trained properly. In medieval times, they were considered to be a royal type of bird.

Where Do Falcons Migrate During Winter?

Like most of the birds out there, the falcons you see in Utah during other seasons will migrate to other areas during winter. Here’s a table of the range maps according to species of where falcons migrate to in winter and year-round.

Species NameWinter Migration toYear-round availability
Peregrine FalconWest and South-east statesStates near and including Utah, Nevada, Arizona
American KestrelStates near the Gulf of MexicoAll over the country
MerlinWest and Central AmericaNorthern states (Wyoming, Montana) and Canada
Prairie FalconCentral AmericaWestern states (Utah, California, Nevada, Arizona)
GyrfalconNorthern states and CanadaAlaska and northern hemisphere countries

Final Words

Whether or not you are a bird enthusiast, the different kinds of falcons in Utah can definitely get you started. Getting to know all about the various characteristics and qualities of these raptors can help you initiate with falconry or take up bird-watching and falcon photography as a hobby.

So, if you’re living in Utah, check the current season and get out those binoculars! You never know; there might just be a peregrine falcon perching on top of your neighbor’s house.


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