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Prairie Falcon? Devil's Tower, WY (1 Viewer)


Well-known member
Hi everyone,
Could this be a Prairie Falcon? I remember it having a rather Peregrine-like behavior (judging from my encounters with them in the UK) but the color on this bird seems a bit too brown for Peregrine in my opinion. Spotted at Devil's Tower, WY, USA on the 18th of July. Both species are common in this area according to Merlin.
I'm very sorry for the poor picture quality, but hopefully they are just discernible enough to help ID the bird.


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If I lighten the picture I do not see the black axilaries that a Prairie Falcon should show. Looks more like a Merlin or American Kestrel to me, but I am not sure of anything with these photos.
Rather long-tailed with quite dinky proportions, so maybe American kestrel is most likely - but, given the way that moult has mucked up the wing-shape, I wouldn't even rule out an Accipiter.
@rkj @Butty
Thanks both for your responses; seems like the ID options are more open than I thought (and hoped).
Are there any ways to narrow down the possibilities? Like I said, to me the behavior was very falcon-like, and more like the peregrines I know than the kestrels.

According to Merlin, the following raptors are commonly seen in this area this time of year: Turkey Vulture, Red-Tailed Hawk, Peregrine and Prairie Falcon. Northern Harrier, Ferruginous Hawk, Osprey and American Kestrel are all uncommon (and as for the rare sightings we have Swainson's Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Golden Eagle, Cooper's Hawk and Merlin - given these are rare I am very inclined to rule them out de facto, unless there are really no better options).

I am quite confident this isn't a Vulture, Hawk, or Osprey, which leaves us with Peregrine, Prairie Falcon, Northern Harrier and Kestrel, leaning towards the first two. RKJ's comment about the lack of dark axillaries do seem to make Prairie Falcon less likely, leaving Peregrine as the most likely option?
I think the wings are too long for Sharp-shinned or Cooper's Hawk. I agree with Avery that American Kestrel is most likely. I suspect that if you lightened the first image, you might get kestrel's "double bar" face pattern (i.e. not Merlin's weak "mustache").
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