Prairie Falcon

1/1250s at f8.0. ISO:800, Canon Mark IV 1D w/800mm x1.4 converter

The Prairie Falcon is a medium-sized falcon of western North America. As in all falcons, females are noticeably bigger than males. The habitat is open country, especially arid, in summer including alpine tundra to short grass prairie and high desert. In winter it is more widespread, ranging to low deserts and occasionally to towns. The Prairie Falcon eats mostly small mammals (especially in summer) and birds caught in flight. Like the Merlin, it often hunts by flying fast and low, at a height of only a meter or so, hoping to find surprised prey as it comes over the terrain or around a bush. Its cruising speed is estimated at 72 km/h (45 mph) and it accelerates in the chase. It also pursues prey sighted from a perch, again often flying very low. It typically catches birds by pursuing them in level flight and grasping them, less often knocking them down in spectacular dives like the Peregrine. This species nests on cliff ledges, so breeding adults are local during the breeding season. The clutch averages four eggs, which are sub elliptical and pinkish with brown, reddish-brown, and purplish dots. The incubation period is 31 days, beginning with the first egg. Incubation becomes more intense after later eggs are laid, somewhat evening out hatching times. As is typical for falcons, the female does most of the incubating and brooding, and the male brings most of the food, with the female also hunting after the young are 12 to 14 days old. The young fledge from 36 to 41 days after hatching and remain with the family for a short time before dispersing.
Wray, Colorado