Resident Raptor - Prairie Falcon
Durango A male, based on his small size
- was taken legally as an 'eyass' (nestling)
for the sport of falconry in the spring of 2000. However, poor housing and
perching during the winter caused him to injure both
wrists by repeatedly 'bating' (flying off the perch) while tethered too
close to frozen ground, leading to wing tip edema and circulation damage.
Although the raptor center at the School of Veterinary Medicine, University
of Washington, Pullman, managed to save both wing tips, there was still
permanent damage - he cannot extend either wing fully and thus cannot fly.
He was transferred here as an education bird in November 2001.
Prairie Falcon (Falco mexicanus)
Prairie Falcons are slimmer and longer-tailed than Peregrine Falcons, and also more active, nervous and aggressive in behavior. Females are larger than males, but the sexes have similar plumages. Upperparts are a gray-brown, with light edges along many of the back feathers; the tail is brown with a white tip, and barring along the outer tail feathers. The throat and underparts are whitish with brown, elongated spots. The top and sides of the head are dark; the face has a light eyebrow, a white cheek, and a narrow brown mustache stripe. When seen in flight from below, dark triangles are visible on the inner portion of pale wings ("dirty armpits") - a feature not seen on any other North American falcon. Prairie Falcons fly with shallow, stiff, powerful wingbeats, and soar on flat wings with the tail slightly fanned. These falcons often fly low and fast over the ground in pursuit of prey.
Status - State and federally protected.
Habitat - Prairie Falcons are found on open prairies and rangelands of the inland arid western states; from low elevations up to 1,200 feet, wherever there are rocky outcrops or bluffs nearby for nesting; they tolerate both heat and cold. This species doesn't need to breed near water, unlike the Peregrine Falcon, and so can use areas not suited to that other large falcon. Not usually found in coastal areas. A few nest west of the Cascades, but are more likely to be seen in the Willamette Valley in winter.
Diet - Prairie Falcons prefer to capture prey on the ground, unlike
their Peregrine Falcon cousins. Small to medium sized mammals and
ground-dwelling birds form the bulk of their diet, with snakes, lizards, and
flying insects taken as well. These birds like to hunt from a perch, course
until flushing prey and then putting on a burst of speed, dive down from
soaring flight to chase prey by flying low to the ground, or hover hunt like
the American Kestrel.