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 due to loss of habitat when large portions of their grasslands were changed into farmland. Also adding to the decline was the increase in pesticides entering their food chain. To help bring back the population, 1500 young falcons were reintroduced to south Texas by The Peregrine Fund in the 1980’s and 1990’s. In 1995, the first nesting pair of aplomado falcons in Texas in 43 years successfully raised a chick. Today, although the wild population appears to be self-sustaining, the number of breeding pairs has not reached the level necessary for the bird to drop its endangered status.