7 Fascinating Falcon Bird Facts You Should Know

From the smallest falcon to the fastest flying bird on earth, discover interesting facts about the falcon bird family.

Go North to See the Largest Falcon

The Gyrfalcon Falco Rusticolis Is A Magnificent Medium Sized Boldly Patterned Black And White Raptor Of The Western And Northern United States, falcon birdDAVE WELLING
Gyrfalcon

With a wingspan of 4 feet, the gyrfalcon (pronounced JER-falcon) is the largest falcon. Your best bet to see this giant raptor is a trip to Alaska or the Canadian tundra.

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The Rarest Falcon Has Gotten a Population Boost

Aplomado FalconShoemcfly/Getty Images
An aplomado falcon perches on a barbed wire fence post.

Aplomado falcons have been listed as endangered since 1986. They’re still very rare, but 1,500 released birds have boosted the population in the southern states. Interestingly, these birds don’t build their own nests. They use nests built by other birds, and sometimes take over nests those birds are using.

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The Smallest Falcon Bird Is Songbird Sized

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The American kestrel is so small you might think it’s a songbird.

The smallest falcon is the American kestrel. It weighs only 2.8 to 5.8 ounces—about the weight of six pencils, at most. The bird is small enough that a strong wind gust can knock it off course.

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One Falcon Is the Fastest Animal on Earth

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The peregrine falcon can reach dazzling speeds.

The peregrine falcon is the fastest animal on earth, flying up to 69 mph. That number is impressive, but it earned the title by its ability to dive after prey at speeds of over 200 mph. To spot a peregrine falcon, you likely won’t have to travel. At certain points during the year, you can see them throughout most of the United States.

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Peregrine Falcon Nests Can Be Precarious

Peregrine Falcon Chicks In Nest On A Detroit High Rise BuildingJim West / Alamy
Peregrine falcon chicks in nest on a Detroit high rise building

A female peregrine falcon lays her eggs on flat ledges or looks for abandoned nests on cliff faces or tall structures. Their nesting sites may be as low as 25 feet or as high as 1,300 feet. This is about the height of the Empire State Building in New York.

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How Many Falcon Bird Species Live in the U.S. and Canada?

MerlinElizabeth W. Kearley/Getty Images
Merlin

In the U.S. and Canada, birders can see seven falcon species—the peregrine falcon, American kestrel, merlin, prairie falcon, gyrfalcon, crested caracara, and aplomado falcon. Two of these birds, gyrfalcons and aplomado falcons, are incredibly difficult to spot because of their range and scarcity.

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Emily Hannemann
Emily Hannemann is an associate editor for Birds & Blooms Digital. Throughout her years with the publication, she has written multiple articles for print as well as digital, all covering birding and gardening. In her role as associate editor, she is responsible for creating and editing articles on the subject of birding and gardening, as well as putting together Birds & Bloom's daily digital newsletter. After graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a master's degree in magazine journalism and undergraduate degrees in journalism and English, she has more than eight years of experience in the magazine, newspaper, and book industries.