Birding in Texas offers much diversity. Texas is home to several falcon species.
What is a “falcon”?
According to Encyclopedia Britannica, a falcon is: “any of nearly 60 species of hawks of the family Falconidae (order Falconiformes), diurnal birds of prey characterized by long, pointed wings and swift, powerful flight.” Most falcons are diurnal.
Diurnal means “day time” in Latin.
Some falcons are large birds and some are quite small.
There are about five species of falcons making Texas their home range: Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus); American Kestrel (Falco sparverius); Merlin (Falco columbarius); Prairie Falcon (Falco mexicanus); Aplomado Falcon (Falco femoralis)
Falcons are called raptors. A raptor is a bird of prey and must hunt for live food. Falcons are not picky eaters and tend to dispatch anything alive and generally feed on smaller birds, reptiles, and bats.
Falcons, being high up the food chain, became deathly ill or had unusually fragile egg shells from DDT (Dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) sprayed extensively in the 1940s through late 1960s as a synthetic pesticide. Used by governments and common households around the world for feared human diseases and crops, it was initially very “successful”.
However, many “pests” became resistant to DDT. DDT also had dire results for humans, animals and birds. Many species are still threatened. DDT’s use in the United States was banned in the early 1970’s. However, due to the chemical nature of DDT, it tends to remain in the environment and in bodies.
According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, falcons are specially adapted to high hunting flight speeds, have excellent eye sight, strong claws, and persistence.
Falcons are deadly hunters and some hunt collaboratively, which means one actively flushes out prey while another waits for the victim.
Some falcons prefer open prairies and grasslands for hunting, while others seek dense forest or canyons. Most spend their time leisurely soaring above, saving energy needed for hunting.
Speaking of saving energy, falcons generally use other birds’ abandoned nests.
For more information on this fantastic bird, please read: Bird Watching in Texas.