Falcons in Indiana (With Pictures)

Falcons in Indiana (With Pictures)

Indiana, a state not just of crossroads but also of skies traversed by some of nature’s most adept aerial predators: falcons. This article takes you on a journey into the world of these swift and agile birds, whose presence adds a dynamic layer to Indiana’s rich biodiversity.

From the urban-adapted Peregrine Falcon, reclaiming cityscapes as its domain, to the colorful American Kestrel brightening the rural landscapes, Indiana’s falcons are a testament to adaptability and resilience.

As we delve into their lives, we explore the Merlin’s fleeting visits during migration and the rare, awe-inspiring appearance of the Gyrfalcon, a visitor from the Arctic. Indiana offers a unique backdrop where these diverse falcon species display their hunting prowess and breathtaking aerial acrobatics.

Join us in discovering the fascinating world of Indiana’s falcons, where each sighting tells a story of survival, elegance, and the unyielding spirit of the wild.

Peregrine Falcon

  • Scientific name: Falco peregrinus
  • Life span: 8-15 years
  • Size: 14-19 inches (36-48 cm)
  • Weight: 1.1-3.3 pounds (500-1500 grams)
  • Wingspan: 3-4 feet (90-120 cm)
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Breeding and rare

The Peregrine Falcon, a symbol of speed and agility, graces the skies worldwide, making its home on every continent except Antarctica. In North America, these falcons are widely distributed, often spotted in urban areas as well as cliffs and coastlines.

A striking feature of the Peregrine Falcon is its blue-gray back, contrasting sharply with its white, barred underparts. The head sports a black “hood” and “sideburns,” giving it a distinctive, fierce appearance. Their yellow-ringed eyes and hooked beaks add to their predatory persona.

The presence of a Peregrine Falcon, whether perched high on a skyscraper or in swift pursuit in the sky, is always a breathtaking sight.

Peregrine Falcon

In Indiana, Peregrine Falcons have adapted remarkably, embracing urban landscapes as their nesting grounds. High-rise buildings and bridges mimic their natural cliff-side nesting sites, providing a safe haven from predators.

These falcons craft their nests, or “scrapes,” with little more than a depression in the gravel or soil on ledges. Each year, they often return to the same site, reinforcing the bond to their chosen territory. Observing a pair of Peregrine Falcons meticulously preparing their nest in the midst of bustling city life is a testament to their adaptability and resilience.

Peregrine Falcons in Indiana have a diet that showcases their status as top aerial predators. They primarily feed on other birds, which they capture in dramatic aerial pursuits. Pigeons, doves, and waterfowl are common targets, but they are also known to diversify their diet with bats and small mammals.

Their hunting strategy involves a high-speed dive, known as a stoop, which showcases their incredible speed and precision.

The conservation story of the Peregrine Falcon in Indiana is a remarkable journey from the brink of extinction to a thriving population. Once decimated by DDT pesticide use, dedicated conservation efforts, including banning harmful pesticides and introducing breeding programs, have led to a significant rebound.

Urban nesting projects have particularly played a crucial role, turning cityscapes into safe havens for these falcons. Today, the Peregrine Falcon stands as a symbol of successful conservation efforts in Indiana.

American Kestrel

  • Scientific name: Falco sparverius
  • Life span: 5-10 years
  • Size: 8-12 inches (20-30 cm)
  • Weight: 2.8-5.8 ounces (80-164 grams)
  • Wingspan: 20-24 inches (51-61 cm)
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Breeding and common

The American Kestrel, North America’s smallest and most colourful falcon, paints a vivid picture against the continent’s landscapes. From Alaska to the tip of South America, these birds are a common sight in varied habitats like open fields, deserts, and urban areas. The male boasts a slate-blue head and wings contrasting with a rusty back and tail, while the female features a more uniform, warm brown plumage. Both genders display distinctive black spots and vertical bars, with the male’s more pronounced. Their charming, almost delicate features, such as the two vertical facial markings, give the American Kestrel a deceivingly gentle appearance.

American Kestrel

American Kestrels in Indiana display a charming preference for open spaces when it comes to nesting. These smallest of North American falcons often choose cavities in trees, abandoned woodpecker holes, or even man-made nest boxes.

They may also nest on building ledges in more urban areas. The sight of these colourful falcons flitting in and out of their nests, often in open fields or along roadways, adds a dash of vibrancy to the Indiana landscape.

The diet of the American Kestrel in Indiana is as varied as the bird’s vibrant plumage. These falcons feast on a mix of insects, small mammals, and birds. Grasshoppers, moths, and other large insects make up a significant portion of their diet, along with mice and small birds. Their hunting technique is a fascinating blend of hovering and diving, showcasing their agility and precision.

The American Kestrel faces a quiet challenge in Indiana, with a subtle decline in numbers over recent years. Loss of habitat and nesting sites due to urbanization and changes in agricultural practices are contributing factors.

Conservation efforts are focusing on enhancing habitat, providing nest boxes, and monitoring populations. These measures aim to ensure that the future skies of Indiana continue to be graced by the presence of these colourful and charismatic falcons.


  • Scientific name: Falco columbarius
  • Life span: 5-10 years
  • Size: 9-11 inches (23-28 cm)
  • Weight: 5-7 ounces (140-198 grams)
  • Wingspan: 20-26 inches (51-66 cm)
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Migratory and rare

The Merlin, a compact and powerful falcon, has a broad geographical range spanning across the Northern Hemisphere, from the tundra to the subtropics. In North America, they are often seen in open areas like grasslands and coastal regions during migration. Merlins are characterized by their blue-gray or dark brown upperparts and streaked underparts.

These birds have an almost brooding appearance with their dark eyes and thick eyebrows, giving them a focused, intense gaze. The Merlin’s swift, direct flight is a sight to behold, as it maneuver effortlessly with rapid wingbeats.


Merlins, transient visitors to Indiana, do not typically nest in the state, as they prefer the open taiga and boreal forests of the north for breeding. However, during migration, they can be observed resting in Indiana’s forests and open fields. Their elusive nature during these times adds an element of mystery and excitement for birdwatchers in the Hoosier state.

While in Indiana, Merlins, the swift and powerful hunters, feed primarily on small birds they capture in mid-air with incredible agility. Their diet often includes sparrows and other small songbirds. These falcons are known for their surprising bursts of speed and agile flight, making them adept at catching agile prey on the wing.

The Merlin has seen a positive turn in its conservation status in recent years. While not a common resident of Indiana, the conservation efforts across North America, including habitat preservation and monitoring of migratory patterns, have aided in their overall population increase. The sight of a Merlin during migration in Indiana is a reminder of the success of broader conservation efforts for these agile birds of prey.


  • Scientific name: Falco rusticolus
  • Life span: 15-20 years
  • Size: 20-25 inches (51-64 cm)
  • Weight: 2-4 pounds (900-1800 grams)
  • Wingspan: 3-4 feet (90-120 cm)
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Migratory and very rare

The Gyrfalcon, the largest of all falcon species, commands the tundra regions of the Arctic, with some venturing into northern parts of Europe, Asia, and North America during winter. This bird’s plumage varies greatly, ranging from a dappled white to dark gray, allowing it to blend seamlessly with its Arctic environment.

Their large, powerful build, with broad, pointed wings and a long tail, is designed for endurance and speed. The Gyrfalcon’s piercing eyes, surrounded by thick plumage, exude a sense of ruggedness and resilience, reflective of the harsh landscapes they inhabit. Seeing a Gyrfalcon in flight, with its powerful wingbeats, is an awe-inspiring and rare spectacle.


The Gyrfalcon, a rare and majestic visitor to Indiana, primarily breeds in the Arctic tundra and does not nest in Indiana. Their occasional winter appearances in the state are a treat for bird enthusiasts. During these visits, Gyrfalcons can be seen perching in high, open vantage points, surveying the landscape with a regal air.

In their rare visits to Indiana, Gyrfalcons exhibit a diet that reflects their Arctic origins, primarily preying on birds. Their hunting style is a display of power and endurance, often pursuing prey over long distances with relentless determination. The sight of a Gyrfalcon in pursuit is a rare and awe-inspiring spectacle in the Indiana skies.

The Gyrfalcon does not have a specific conservation status in Indiana due to its rarity in the state. However, globally, these birds face threats from climate change and habitat disturbance in their Arctic breeding grounds.

International conservation efforts focus on habitat preservation and climate action to ensure the survival of these majestic birds of the Arctic, whose occasional visits add a touch of Arctic wilderness to the Indiana landscape.

Where to find Falcons in Indiana

The key to finding these elusive raptors lies in understanding their habitats and behaviours. Peregrine Falcons, known for their urban adaptation, often nest on tall buildings and bridges, making cities unexpected yet excellent viewing spots.

The American Kestrel, with its preference for open areas, can often be spotted perched on telephone wires along country roads, scanning for prey in nearby fields.

To maximize your chances of seeing these magnificent birds, patience and a good pair of binoculars are essential. Early mornings or late afternoons are typically the best times for bird watching, as falcons are most active during these periods.

Additionally, visiting during migration seasons – spring and fall – can increase your likelihood of spotting migratory species like the Merlin.

Here are four prime locations in Indiana for falcon watching:

  • Eagle Creek Park, Indianapolis: A haven for Peregrine Falcons, offering urban birdwatching opportunities.
  • Goose Pond Fish & Wildlife Area: This expansive area is ideal for spotting American Kestrels in its open fields.
  • Indiana Dunes National Park: Provides a diverse habitat attractive to migratory falcons, including occasional sightings of Merlins.
  • Fort Harrison State Park, Indianapolis: A blend of wooded areas and open spaces, suitable for observing various falcon species, especially during migration.

Remember, while exploring these areas, it’s important to respect the wildlife and their habitat. Quiet observation and minimal disturbance ensure a rewarding and sustainable birdwatching experience. Indiana’s landscapes offer a unique opportunity to connect with nature through the awe-inspiring world of falcons.


Indiana’s skies are graced by the dynamic presence of falcons, each species weaving its unique tapestry in the state’s avian landscape. From the urban-adapting Peregrine to the colourful American Kestrel, and the transient Merlin to the rare Gyrfalcon, these birds of prey embody resilience, adaptability, and natural splendour.

Their continued survival and prosperity in Indiana are a testament to the delicate balance of conservation, habitat preservation, and our shared responsibility towards these magnificent winged hunters.

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