All Falcons in California with Pictures

With visuals and essential information, we’ll explore the most frequently seen falcons in California. All of this data was compiled solely from credible resources and authenticated by an Ornithologist for accuracy.

Peregrine Falcons

Peregrine Falcon

(Falco peregrinus) is one of the most widespread falcons in California. It can be distinguished by its long, pointed wings and a tail with a dark “teardrop” pattern at the end. The Peregrine Falcon has blue-gray upperparts, barred white underparts, and yellow legs and feet. Its diet typically consists of other birds such as doves, ducks, and songbirds. In terms of size, the Peregrine Falcon length 20 inches long can be with a wingspan of 40-44 inches.

In California, the Peregrine Falcon is usually found near rocky cliffs and coasts. However, they have also adapted to city environments. They are often seen perching atop tall buildings and bridges in cities. When hunting, the Peregrine Falcon uses its natural speed and agility to make quick dives from high altitudes to surprise their prey. During a dive, they can reach speeds of up to 200 mph which make them one of the fastest birds in the world!

Peregrine Falcon range map

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

(Falco sparverius) is the smallest falcon species found in California. It has a distinct black and white spotted head, with rusty wings, back, and tail feathers. This species can be found in open grasslands and fields throughout most of the state.

The American Kestrel mainly feeds on small insects such as beetles, grasshoppers, and moths. It also preys on small rodents, frogs, lizards, and birds. They can sometimes be seen hovering above the ground while hunting their prey.

American Kestrels are relatively tiny falcons measuring around 9-12 inches in length with a wingspan of 21-24 inches. The males tend to be smaller than the females.

American Kestrels are relatively common in California, particularly in areas with open grasslands and fields. They typically build their own nests on trees or power poles near these open areas. The species is also known for its courtship behavior of dangling from a high perch before diving downward several times as part of the mating ritual.

American Kestrels generally form monogamous pairs, with both parents helping to raise their young. They are mainly active during the day and can often be seen perched on power lines or trees observing for prey. They are also known to be very vocal, producing a series of high-pitched calls.

American Kestrel range map

Crested Caracara

Crested Caracara

(Caracara cheriway) is a species of falcon found in California and other parts of North America. It has distinctive black, white, and brown plumage with a crest on its head. The bird measures up to 25 inches in length, with a wingspan up to 4 feet. These large raptors are mainly scavengers, feeding on carrion and small animals. They inhabit open woodlands, prairies, deserts, and other areas with scattered trees and shrubs.

Crested Caracaras are social birds that often gather in groups at communal roosts during the evening. During the day they are active hunters, flying over fields and grassland to spot prey. They can also be seen perched on posts or poles, watching for potential food items and predators. While they may look intimidating, they are actually very timid around humans. When threatened they often retreat to the safety of cover or fly away.

When nesting, Crested Caracaras usually create a platform made of sticks and twigs. They often lay up to four eggs in the nest. The eggs are incubated mainly by the female, while the male provides food for her and the chicks. During this time, both parents take turns watching over their young, protecting them from potential predators until they are big enough to fly away on their own.

In California, the Crested Caracara is a protected species and its population has been increasing in recent years. It can be found year round throughout much of the state, but it is especially common in areas near wetlands and coastal regions. This species is an important part of California’s avian ecology, as it helps to keep local ecosystems healthy and in balance.

The Crested Caracara is a truly awe-inspiring bird, with its impressive size and striking plumage. It’s worth keeping an eye out for these majestic creatures when you’re out exploring California’s wild places. You might even find yourself enjoying watching them hunt and soar through the sky!

Crested Caracara range map

Prairie Falcons

Prairie Falcon

(Falco mexicanus) are found in some parts of California. They are medium-sized falcons, with adults measuring between 17 and 20 inches long. Males weigh between 700 to 1,200 grams and females from 900 to 1,600 grams. They have a light brown back, a white chest with dark barring on it, and a dark tail with a light-colored terminal band.

Prairie Falcons can be found in dry areas such as deserts, shrublands, and grassy plains. They prefer open terrain with low vegetation and plenty of perching spots or nesting sites on rock ledges. Prairie Falcons hunt birds, mammals, ground squirrels, reptiles, insects, and carrion.

In terms of behavior, Prairie Falcons hunt by soaring in circles or from perches and then pouncing on their prey when they least expect it. They are also known to chase other birds away from their nesting grounds during the breeding season. They often soar high up in the air before diving steeply after prey, with dives reaching speeds of up to 200 mph. In non-breeding season, Prairie Falcons gather in small groups and can be seen perched on rocks or flying together in wide circles.

In California, Prairie Falcons are listed as a species of Special Concern and their population is monitored carefully. They are vulnerable to habitat destruction and human disturbance, so it’s important to take care when in areas they inhabit. By respecting their space and avoiding disturbing them, you can help ensure that the Prairie Falcon’s population remains healthy and stable in California for years to come.

The Crested Caracara (Caracara cheriway) and Prairie Falcon (Falco mexicanus),both found in California, are two truly magnificent birds of prey. The Crested Caracara, also known as the “Carrion Crow” is one of the largest raptors in North America, reaching sizes of up to 27 inches long and weighing around 4.2 pounds. It has a distinctive black head, white neck ruff, and a light brown body with dark barring along the wings.

The Prairie Falcon is much smaller than its larger relative; adults measure between 17 and 20 inches long and weigh between 700 to 1,200 grams (males) or 900 to 1,600 grams (females). It has a light brown back, white chest with dark barring on it and a dark tail with a light-colored terminal band.

Crested Caracaras are opportunistic hunters that feed primarily on carrion, but they will also hunt smaller animals such as reptiles, mammals, and small birds. During the breeding season, they often construct nests in trees or on cliffs and both parents take turns caring for their young. Prairie Falcons primarily feed on smaller birds, mammals, reptiles, insects and carrion. They hunt by soaring in circles or from perches and then pouncing on their prey when they least expect it.

Both species inhabit a variety of habitats in California, including wetlands, coastal zones, and dry areas such as deserts, shrublands and grassy plains. It is important to protect their habitat while respecting the wildlife by avoiding disturbing them or destroying their nesting sites. By doing this, we can help ensure that both the Crested Caracara and Prairie Falcon populations remain healthy in California for years to come.

Prairie Falcon range map


Merlin Falcons

Merlin Falco columbarius

(Falco columbarius) are medium-sized, fierce falcons that live in the western United States, including California. They have dark brown upperparts and streaked white underparts, with a black cap on their heads and yellow legs. Merlins average around 14 inches in length and weigh about 5 ounces.

Merlin Falcons primarily hunt small birds and mammals, such as sparrows, finches, and bats. They typically nest in trees near open areas where they can easily spot prey.

Merlin Falcons are found in a variety of habitats throughout California, including grasslands, deserts, savannas, open forests, and coniferous woodland edges. During migration, they can be found even in suburban residential areas. They are usually seen soaring high above the ground, searching for prey from a vantage point.

In addition to hunting, Merlin Falcons perform elaborate courtship displays which involve powerful steep dives, as well as loud calls and aerial acrobatics. During breeding season Merlins form monogamous pairs and demonstrate strong pair bonds that last for several years.

Generally, Merlin Falcons live in California year-round, although some do migrate to northern areas during the winter months. They usually roost alone or with a mate, and tend to use the same roosting sites for extended periods of time. Merlins are shy and cautious birds, so it is not easy to observe them in the wild.

Merlin Falco columbarius range map

What kind of falcons are in California?

California is home to two species of falcon, the American kestrel and the Prairie falcon. The American kestrel is a small bird of prey that can be found in open areas, such as grasslands, deserts, and suburban backyards. It has slate blue wings with rusty bars on its tail feathers. The Prairie falcon is slightly larger than the American kestrel and has a pale brown back, mottled with dark brown spots. It can be found in sagebrush steppes, open forests, and arid deserts. In both species of falcons, males typically have darker plumage on their back than females do. Both species are protected under the Migratory Birds Treaty Act.

Are there wild falcons in California?

Yes, California is home to several species of wild falcons. The most common species of falcon found in California are the American Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Prairie Falcon, and Merlin. These birds can be seen soaring over open fields or along coastal cliffs throughout the state. Falcons are apex predators and play an important role in maintaining healthy ecosystems and providing rodent control in agricultural areas.

What does a California falcon look like?

California Falcons have a dark brown head and back, with a white throat, chest and belly. Their wings are long and pointed and they have yellow legs and feet. They have broad black tail bands that contrast with the white on their undersides. The California Falcon has an orange-red facial mask that extends over its eyes, giving it a hooded appearance. Its beak is black, and its eyes are yellow-orange.

Adult males have light blue on their wings with dark brown barring or spotting, while females lack the blue coloration, instead having a more uniform chocolate brown plumage. Juveniles resemble adults but have less defined facial markings and duller colors overall. California Falcons measure around 17-20 inches in length with an average wingspan of 36-41 inches. They weigh between 8-15 ounces.

California Falcons can be found mostly in the California Central Valley and adjacent foothills, as well as parts of southern California, Arizona, New Mexico and Baja, Mexico. They inhabit open areas such as grasslands, agricultural fields and desert scrub. They can also be found in woodlands near streams or riparian areas. During the winter months, they migrate south to Mexico, Central America and South America.

What do California falcons eat?

California falcons primarily feed on small birds, reptiles, and small mammals. They also sometimes eat insects, fish, and amphibians. Falcons will hunt at dawn and dusk when their prey is most active. They typically dive down from the sky to catch their prey in mid-air or pursue them on the ground. California falcons have extremely sharp talons that they use to capture and kill their prey. They will often store the food in a safe area, such as a tree cavity, before consuming it. After catching their prey, California falcons will perch on a high point to pluck their feathers off and then feed on the meat.

California falcons are also known to scavenge for food, eating dead birds, mammals, and reptiles that they find on the ground. In urban areas, California falcons may also feed on pigeons or other small creatures found in cities. They will often eat discarded human foods such as bread crumbs or French fries from fast food restaurants. Despite this occasional scavenging behavior, California falcons primarily rely on other animals for sustenance. By consuming a wide variety of small prey, they are able to stay healthy and thrive in their habitats.