A few New Mexico birds: Falconiformes


This order includes falcons; hawks are in a separate order. Hover over a picture to control the images.

Falconidae: Merlin (Falco columbarius)

In one photo, this female turned her head away but exposed a bit of her underside. I reduced the contrast in that photo so you can see that part of the plumage more clearly. Merlins catch sparrow-sized birds (and dragonflies) on the wing, and you can see this female's breakfast gripped in one foot.


Falconidae: American Kestrel or Sparrow Hawk (Falco sparverius)

American kestrel, sparrow hawk, female, eating lizard, new mexico



I see these small hunters in or next to open fields. For males, look for black spots on the breast and gray on the wings. For females, look for breasts with brown streaks.


One female I saw in April 2023 had to fight off another kestrel (her mate, I suspect) to be able to enjoy her newly caught lizard. She then consumed it head-first. I'll share two pictures of that kestrel above, and a close-up to the left. A few days later I saw a second female kestrel who also had caught a lizard. 



In the winter, you may see kestrels and other birds dropping to the ground and then flying off, apparently having caught nothing. As the blown-up image to the left shows, they're seeing food we don't. In this case, a female kestrel is flying away with a cricket. I took the picture in January 2024.