Falcon’s are incredibly smart, great hunters, and spectacular flyers. There are 3 different species of falcons found in the state of New York. Those species are the American Kestrel, the Merlin, and the Peregrine Falcon. Below we’ll give you an overview of each species including some specs for each bird, a picture or two, and a few facts about these falcons in New York.
3 species of falcons in New York
The 3 species of falcons in New York are the American Kestrel, Merlin, and the Peregrine Falcon.
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 kestrel in North America’s smallest falcon, about the size of a dove. Males have uniquely colorful plumage for a raptor, with a gray-blue head and wing and rusty red back and tail, and bold black stripes on the face. Females have a similarly colored head but their bodies lack the gray-blue coloring.
They perch on wires, poles and branches in open territory, hunting insects and small mammals. Due to their small size, they can sometimes be preyed upon by larger hawks and owls. They can be found year round in New York.
Scientific name: Falco columbarius
Length: 9.4-11.8 in
Weight: 5.6-8.5 oz
Wingspan: 20.9-26.8 in
Merlins are another tiny but mighty falcon. While they are not much larger than the American Kestrel, they weight more and this makes them appear stockier and larger. Adult males have a bluish-gray back and cap, while females are brown. Merlins mostly eat smaller birds, often catching them in midair in a “sneak attack”.
They may even hunt in pairs, while one Merlin attacks a flock from below, another will swoop in while the disturb flock tries to fly away. They recently have moved into more urban territory, utilizing the large house sparrow populations for food. You can spot them mainly during the migrating months in New York, with some wintering populations in southern New York.
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 can be found all over the world, but were almost wiped out from eastern North America by DDT and pesticide poisoning during the middle 20th century. Thankfully after recovery efforts, they have made a comeback and can be seen year round in New York, with the best sightings being during fall migration.
Adults Peregrine Falcons have dark gray backs and heads and heavily streaked chests. Their diet consists of mostly birds, of almost any kind. They have been documented preying on 450 different species of birds in North America alone. Other prey includes bats and rodents.
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Melanie is an environmental scientist, birdwatcher, and amateur photographer. She’s been a birding hobbyist for years and loves feeding and learning about birds of all types. Over the years, Melanie has identified more than 250 bird species, with sightings of the Atlantic Puffin, Hawaiian Goose, and Arctic Tern among her most cherished.