Tuesday, June 17, 2014

WY - do large falcons hover?

Traveling south at 55 mph, our party spotted a falcon hovering in classic 'kestrel-like' manner on a ridge above Rt 191, Flaming Gorge NRA, south of Rock Springs, Wyoming. It was certainly easy to gloss over it as another American Kestrel, a species seen almost daily on our trip. However, naked-eye views suggested something wasn't right from about this bird, though we could clearly see that it wasn't a buteo either. A sharp U-turn brought us back to the bird which was still hovering in the same area. Needless to say we were surprised and delighted to find that it was a Prairie Falcon, a much wanted species for our tour. Though I've seen Peregrines 'hanging' on the wind before, I don't recall seeing any large falcon hover in such an obvious 'kestrel-like' manner as this Prairie Falcon - this despite logging a good number of field hours in the American West each year. Any thoughts/comments would be welcome.

 Prairie Falcon - hovering, Flaming Gorge NRA, south of Rock Springs, WY. June 10th, 2014.

 Prairie Falcon - in direct flight, Flaming Gorge NRA, south of Rock Springs, WY. June 10th, 2014.

Ridge above Flaming Gorge NRA, Wyoming - the Prairie Falcon was hovering over this ridge.


Jon Ranney said...

I just spotted a large falcon hovering (kestrel style, with wings flapping) ery briefly near my home outside Aspen. I always thought only Kestrels did this. I've seen a pair of falcons around our neighborhood each summer for the past few years, but haven't positively identified whether they are prairie falcons or peregrines.

Jon Ranney said...

I just saw a large falcon hover briefly, kestrel style, near my home outside Aspen, CO. Always thought only kestrels do this. I haven't yet positively identified the falcons we have here each summer as peregrines or prairie falcons.

Russell Cannings said...

Can't say I've seen large falcons doing this but as you know some large raptors like Buteos do this routinely (Mainly Swainson's + Rough-legs, but sometimes Red-tails and others). While it must take a lot more energy then soaring around I suppose it is a viable hunting strategy when hunting small mammals in taller grass, particularly if movement has been detected. Harriers and Short-eared Owls don't exactly 'kestrel' but they do seem to hover momentarily when they spot something in tall grass before either pouncing or moving on.

Sounds like a fun tour--love that part of the world!