Falcons in Iowa (4 Species)

This article contains affiliate links. If you click a link then make a purchase, we may get a small get commission at no cost to you.

There are only six Falcons that can be found in the United States, but in this article we’ll be looking at the 4 falcons in Iowa. 

Iowa has enacted a Wildlife action plan to keep them safe, all of their wildlife safe before they ever get to the point of becoming rare and endangered. A marvelous place for these raptors to reside in and call home at least for part of the year.  

Falcons are exceptional predators. Unlike most other raptors that use their feet to kill, Falcons come equipped with a triangular-shaped ridge “Tooth” located on the outside of their beak used to kill prey quickly and efficiently. Couple this with their killer speed and their ability to swiftly change direction, and you have a magnificent hunter. 

Falcons in Iowa

The four species of falcons in the state of Iowa are the American Kestrel, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, and the Prairie Falcon.

We’ll be discussing each below.

1 . American Kestrel

Scientific name: Falco sparverius
Length: 8.7-12.2 in 
Weight: 2.8-5.8 oz
Wingspan: 20.1-24.0 in 

The American Kestrel is the smallest Falcon in North America, but size means very little with this predator. Stealthy, and sharp these Falcons are no pushovers. They’ve adapted well for their small size. 

You can find Kestrels in Iowa Year-round. Watch for them in open areas, perching on telephone poles and fenceposts. 

Image: Steve Hillebrand, USFWS | Wikicommons

They are North America’s most common Falcon, helping keep insect and small rodent populations in check. They are not considered a conservation concern, but numbers have been declining. You can help by setting up a nesting box during breeding season.


2 . Merlin

Image: adriankirby | pixabay.com

Scientific name: Falco columbarius
Length: 9.4-11.8 in
Weight: 5.6-8.5 oz
Wingspan: 20.9-26.8 in

Merlin’s are small but fierce. Preying on smaller birds and even stealing birds’ nests for their clutch. You can differentiate them from larger falcon species by their rapid wing movements. 

Image: lapping | pixabay.com

 You can see this beautiful species of Falcon in Iowa during the migration season. They are almost always perching high in treetops or moving at full speed. Catching a glimpse of these creatures won’t be easy but all that more special and exciting when you do. 


3 . Peregrine Falcon

Scientific name: Falco peregrinus
Length: 14.2-19.3 in 
Weight: 18.7-56.4 oz
Wingspan: 39.4-43.3 in

Peregrine Falcons are powerful and remarkably fast, reaching speeds upwards of 200mph, making them superior hunters. They’ve been used for their hunting skills by humans for thousands of years. 

Peregrines can be found on every continent and are seen in Iowa during migration, but in some remote locations during the breeding season and even a few spots where they reside year-round.


4 . Prairie Falcon

Photo by: Deanna Nichols/ USFWS | CC 2.0

Scientific name: Falco mexicanus
Length: 14.6-18.5 in 
Weight: 14.8-38.8 oz
Wingspan: 35.4-44.5 in 

Prairie Falcons have a very fitting name. You can find them enjoying wide-open spaces. They are about the size of a crow and are distinguished by the dark triangular shape under their wings. 

This raptor can be seen during the winter months in parts of Iowa along the western border. 

Prairie Falcons are known to play. They will drop dried cow patties mid-air and then dive to retrieve it. It is believed that this behavior might be a way of honing their skills.

About Jesse

Jesse enjoys bird watching and feeding birds in his backyard, learning about the different species, and sharing his knowledge and experiences.

Sign up to our mailing list and join over 1000 other birders!