Northern Aplomado Falcon
Falco femoralis septentrionalis
This slender, long-tailed falcon is moderate in size (15-18 inches in length and a 3 foot wingspan) and has a plumage that is very distinct in pattern and coloration. The aplomado falcon's underparts are much darker in color (blackish) than all other falcons found in the United States. The tail is banded with white and black (or gray) stripes. A distinctive white line is located below the black cap on its head.
The aplomado falcon is typically a species of open habitats in North and Central America, ranging from coastal prairie and other grasslands through tropical savanna to open woodlands containing oaks and pines.1 In Arizona, this species most likely occurred in desert grasslands (at relatively low elevations) adjacent to shrubby habitats.
This species ranges (or ranged) from the southwestern United States to the southernmost portion of South America. It was largely extirpated in the U. S. by the 1930's, but a reintroduction program was instituted in southern Texas in 1985 and may be extended to Arizona and/or New Mexico in the future.2
The aplomado falcon is reported to be a rapid and graceful flyer, but it also spends a lot of time perched or on the ground.3 Hunting is performed both by ambush and during extended flights, sometimes with the pursuit of prey continuing on foot. Pairs of these falcons will hunt cooperatively, with the male typically flying overhead and the female below. This species is also attracted to fires that flush out insects and other prey, which are usually taken and consumed by the falcon while flying. These falcons are powerful fliers capable of taking fast-flying birds.2
The aplomado falcon usually nests in trees or tall shrubs, where it uses the nests of other birds such as the Chihuahuan raven (Corvus cryptoleucus) and Swainson's hawk (Buteo swainsonii). Females will lay a clutch of three to four eggs, which are whitish in appearance with small brown spots.1
The prey of this species is varied, consisting mostly of insects and small birds.
F. f. septentrionalis was listed as "Endangered" on March 27, 1986. A Federal Recovery Plan was drafted in 1989, however the species has since disappeared from Arizona.4 In 1996, the Arizona Game and Fish Department listed the aplomado falcon as an Arizona Species of Special Concern.5
Aplomado Falcon in Pima County:
Before 1890, the aplomado falcon was a fairly common summer, and possibly permanent, resident in southeastern Arizona. Since this time, the species has not occured in the state. The last recorded observation in Pima County was near Tucson prior to 1910.6
1. New Mexico Department of Game and Fish et al. 1997. BISON-M: New Mexico Species List/Species Accounts. http://www.fw.vt.edu/fishex/nmex/species/040380.htm.
2. New Mexico Dept. of Game and Fish. 1991. Handbook of Species Endangered in New Mexico. 1991. NM Department of Game and Fish, Santa Fe, NM.
3. Hubbard, J.P., Conway, M.C., Campbell, H., Schmitt, G., and Hatch, M.D. 1979. Handbook of Species Endangered in New Mexico. New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.
4. Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD). 1995. Recovery Plans and Conservation Agreements for Listed and Candidate Species in Arizona. Heritage Data Management System (HDMS). Phoenix, Arizona.
5. Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD). 1996. Wildlife of Special Concern in Arizona (Public Review Draft). Phoenix, Arizona, 85023-4399.
6. Lusk, fide Visher, Auk 27, 1910:281