COMMON NAME: Aplomado falcon
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Falco femoralis
The aplomado falcon is a long-tailed, long-legged raptor with a gray back and black and chestnut bands across its breast and belly. It is 15 to 18 inches long with a 32- to 36-inch wingspan. Considerable variation occurs among adults as to degree of cinnamon or tawny pigmentation on underparts. They are most often seen in pairs.
Mexico, Central America, and South America. They occasionally range north of Mexico into southern Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.
Open grassland or savanna with scattered trees and shrubs
Aplomados do not build their own nests, but instead use old stick nests built by other birds such as black-shouldered kites. The average clutch is 2-3 eggs, laid in April or May. The incubation period is 31-32 days, and both sexes incubate.
Pairs work together to find prey and flush it from cover. Birds and insects are the aplomado’s most common prey, usually captured by direct flight from observation posts. Aplomados are fast fliers and often chase prey as they try to escape into dense grass. Parents make 25 to 30 hunting attempts per day to feed their young. Chicks are fed six or more times a day.
On February 25, 1986, the northern aplomado falcon was designated as endangered throughout its range. Aplomado falcons are endangered because their grassland habitat has been altered by overgrazing and brush invasion. Changing rangeland into farmland has destroyed large areas of habitat. Contamination from pesticides entering the food chain has also reduced the number of aplomado falcons. To help bring back the population, falcons are being reintroduced in south Texas. In 1995, as part of the reintroduction project, the first nesting pair of aplomado falcons in Texas in 43 years successfully raised a chick.