What’s the difference between a peregrine falcon and a Prairie Falcon?

Answered by Douglas Hiatt

The difference between a peregrine falcon and a prairie falcon lies primarily in their coloration. While they are similar in size, with both species being medium-sized falcons, their plumage sets them apart.

The Prairie Falcon, as the name suggests, is predominantly brown in color. Its back and upper wings are a rich brown shade, while the underwing coverts, or the feathers that cover the base of the flight feathers, are dark. This creates distinct dark patches under the wings. The brown coloration helps the Prairie Falcon blend in with its grassland habitat, allowing it to camouflage itself while hunting.

In contrast, the peregrine falcon has a more varied coloration. Juvenile peregrines also have brown backs, similar to the Prairie Falcon. However, as they mature into adults, their plumage changes to a striking blue-gray color on the back and upper wings. This blue-gray hue gives the peregrine falcon a distinct and recognizable appearance. Additionally, the underwing color pattern of adult peregrines is uniform, lacking the dark patches seen in Prairie Falcons. The underwings of adult peregrines are typically pale with a mottled or barred pattern.

It’s important to note that while adult peregrine falcons have this characteristic blue-gray coloration, juveniles and immature birds may still exhibit a mix of brown and blue-gray feathers. This can make it slightly more challenging to differentiate between a juvenile peregrine and a Prairie Falcon based solely on color. However, the uniform underwing color pattern of adult peregrines is a key distinguishing feature.

In my personal experience as a bird enthusiast and observer, I have had the opportunity to see both peregrine and Prairie Falcons in their natural habitats. It is truly fascinating to witness the variations in their plumage and how these colors play a role in their survival and adaptation to different environments. The distinct blue-gray color of the adult peregrine falcon is always a treat to see, while the brown hues of the Prairie Falcon allow it to blend seamlessly into the grasslands. These unique colorations are just a small part of what makes these falcons such remarkable and awe-inspiring birds.