Aplomado Falcon

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Common Name: Aplomado Falcon
Scientific Name: Falco femoralis

Size: 12-16 inches (30-40cm); Wingspan: 36 inches (90 cm)

Habitat: The Americas; the species' largest contiguous range is in South America, but not in the deep interior Amazon Basin. It ranges from northern Mexico and Trinidad locally to southern South America, but has been extirpated from many places in its range, including all of northern and central Mexico except for a small area of Chihuahua. Until the 1950s it was found in the extreme southwestern United States, and reintroduction efforts are under way in Western and Southern Texas. It began to reoccupy its former range in West Texas and southern New Mexico in the 1990s.

The habitat is dry grasslands, savannahs, and marshes.

Status: Least Concern to Endangered. Global population: Unknown amount of adult individuals. While the population trend is increasing in the United States following reintroductions, the overall global declines outweigh the increases and are likely owing to habitat loss and degradation elsewhere across its large range. The Aplomado Falcon was placed on the Endangered Species List in 1986 and is the last falcon in the United States currently on this list.

Diet: Large invertebrates, small vertebrates and small birds. Aplomado Falcons will hunt together as pairs or in family groups, working together to pursue or flush out their prey.

Nesting: Females are noticeably larger than males. In adult birds, the upperparts are dark blue-grey, as is much of the head, with the usual falcon "moustache" contrasting sharply with the white throat and eye stripe. The upper breast continues the white of the throat; there are black patches on each side of the lower breast that meet in the middle; the belly and thighs, below the black patches, are light cinnamon. The tail is black with narrow white or grey bars and a white tip. The cere, eye-ring, and feet are yellow or yellow-orange. Juvenile birds are very similar to adults, but their upperparts and belly band are blackish brown, the chest is streaked with black, the white on the head and breast is buffy, and the cinnamon on the under parts is paler, as are the feet.

Like most falcons, they do not build their own nests. They use abandoned nests built by other birds such as ravens, jays, and kites. They can be found nesting at the tops of power poles and in trees, yuccas, and low bushes or even on the ground. They normally lay one to three eggs. Both the male and the female will incubate, or sit on, the eggs, though the female does most of it. The male is in charge of finding food for himself and his mate. After about five weeks, young chicks will hatch from these eggs.

There is a 40-day period from hatching to fledging. Chicks weigh about an ounce when they emerge from their shells, yet they will be full-grown when they leave the nest. By the time they fledge, they will be 12 inches tall and have a wingspan of up to 3 feet.

The young falcons tend to stay in their parents’ territory for one to two months. It is a relatively easy time for them, with their parents bringing them food and defending them against predators, but they still face many risks. As they learn to hunt, they sometimes accidentally crash into fences or are hit by cars. If they spend too much time on the ground, they are vulnerable to predators, such as bobcats and coyotes. Even up in a tree, they might fall prey to snakes. When flying, they are vulnerable to capture by Red-tailed Hawks, Great Horned Owls, and other birds of prey. If a young falcon can survive the first year of its life, chances are good that it will be able to survive into adulthood and raise young of its own.

Cool Facts: The Aplomado falcon will chase after game such as small birds and quail, by pursuit flight, which is flying after quarry flushed out. It is mainly acquired from breeders because of its scarcity in the United States, and many falconers in Europe will buy a pair for about £4000. It's admired for its accipiter-like hunting style, which has made the bird famous for being more like an accipiter than a falcon.

The Peregrine Fund is actively involved in the Aplomado falcon reintroduction into the United States.

This 3D model is found in Songbird Remix Birds of Prey Volume I: Kestrels, Hobbies and Falcons

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