Species and Plant Community
Accounts for Identified Wildlife

Table of contents

PRAIRIE FALCON (Falco mexicanus)

Status

The prairie falcon is RED-listed. It is at risk in B.C. due to human disturbance at nesting sites, secondary poisoning from insecticides and loss of foraging habitat in the southern portion of its range. COSEWIC has designated this species as NOT AT RISK in Canada.

Ecology

The prairie falcon occurs within open treeless habitats such as prairies, deserts and alpine meadows. In B.C, it occurs within the grassland and sagebrush habitats of the south-central interior. In the breeding season, April to August, it is often found near cliffs adjacent to water and open areas. Aeries are located on low cliffs near water. Nests are located on cliff ledges below overhangs that provide shade. Generally nests are unlined, shallow depressions scooped in gravel or sand. Aeries are used for many years. The prairie falcon hunts over open areas where prey are visible. Prey, such as ground squirrels and passerines, are often taken on the ground.

Distribution

Ecoprovinces: Ecosections

Biogeoclimatic units

Breeding range

In B.C., the prairie falcon breeds in the Thompson-Okanagan plateau from the Okanagan and Nicola valleys into the Chilcotin-Cariboo Basin region.

Nonbreeding range

This species is primarily restricted to the south-central interior of the province. It ranges through the Okanagan, Similkameen, Nicola and south Thompson valleys north to the Chilcotin-Cariboo basin region. It is considered a late summer visitant to the alpine Cascade Mountains, a very rare transient in south eastern B.C., and casual in the west Kootenay.

Wintering and migration

Much of the population winters at breeding latitudes. Generally, they winter where prey is available in open, low elevation breeding habitats. Spring migrants arrive in late March and early April, and depart in August through October.

Habitat requirements

Broad ecosystem units

Structural stage

1: non-vegetated/sparse
2: herb
3: shrub/herb

Critical habitats and habitat features

Eyries are often located on sheer cliffs (15-138 m) between 450-900 m in elevation, although higher cliffs are most certainly used. Nests are located near open water (lakes, rivers) overlooking expansive hunting areas. The prairie falcon forages in open and semi-open habitats. Since prey are captured on the ground, vegetation structure may be important in determining successful strikes.

Selected references

Holthuijzen, A.M., W.G. Eastland, A.R. Ansell, M.N. Kochert, R.D. Williams and L.S.
Young. 1990. Effects of blasting on behavior and productivity of nesting prairie falcons. Wildl. Soc. Bull. 18:270-281.

Johnsgard, P.A. 1979. Birds of the Great Plains: Breeding species and their distribution.
Univ. Neb. Press, Lincoln, NE. pp.101-102.

Suter, G.W. and J.L. Jones. 1981. Criteria for golden eagle, ferruginous hawk, and prairie
falcon nest site protection. Rapt. Res. 15(1):12-18.


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