Prairie Falcon – Eureka Again!

Perched Prairie Falcon Perched Prairie Falcon – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/1000, ISO 800, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited or set up

I had another post on a different subject almost ready to publish this morning but decided to wait until I came back from going out photographing today. It didn’t look like the light was going to be great but a storm is coming in and it might be 3-4 days before I can get out in the field with my camera. Today was a day of surprises.

What can I say? I was tickled pink this past week when I was able to create images of Rough-legged Hawks, a bird that had been a nemesis for me but today I just couldn’t believe my luck with this first year Prairie Falcon. I could have been knocked over with the proverbial feather. Plus, I had decent light!

 Young Prairie Falcon getting ready for lift offYoung Prairie Falcon getting ready for lift off – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/800, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited or set up

I’ve seen Prairie Falcons since moving to Utah but they have always been too far away to photograph, until last week when Ron and I came across a Prairie Falcon that swooped down towards a Peregrine Falcon on prey, the Peregrine left the prey (a Ruddy Duck) and the Prairie Falcon began to eat it.  I did take images of that Prairie Falcon and I was close enough to get full frame images. But… the light was horrible! It was cloudy and the light was very low plus there was foliage in front of the bird as it ate the prey on the ground. I took way too many images that just ended up being deleted. I was very disappointed.

So there I was this morning thinking that a Northern Harrier was coming at us in the distance when both of us realized at the same moment that the bird wasn’t a harrier at all, it was a hunting Prairie Falcon!

First year Prairie FalconFirst year Prairie Falcon – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/800, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited or set up

The Prairie Falcon would hunt for a bit then perch where it could survey its surroundings and then hunt some more. It flew down and landed on this rock with the Great Salt Lake behind it and posed for several minutes before it showed some signs that it was going to take off again. I wish I had zoomed back a little bit because it did some full wing stretches before these images were taken, but unfortunately I clipped the wing tips. I still was able to get some action shots that I am happy with though.

Wow, two nemesis birds photographed in a week, this juvenile Prairie Falcon was amazing. I’ll be grinning (and dancing) about this for quite awhile!



  1. Preston November 20, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    Congrats on some fabulous shots and great stories
    Do you prefer out west photography or Florida shooting?

    • Mia McPherson November 20, 2011 at 4:06 pm

      Thanks Preston, the falcon sure was a beauty.

      I love photographing both in Florida and here, though the techniques used are very different. I had complete freedom of movement in FL where here I’m often in a vehicle using it as a mobile blind. That does restrict my movement some. But the birds here are not as habituated to human presence as they were in FL so quite often a blind of some sort is needed.

  2. Julie Brown November 19, 2011 at 8:13 am

    Mia, I am totally jealous that you get to photograph so many cool raptors, but also thankful that you share them with us!

    • Mia McPherson November 20, 2011 at 4:04 pm

      Julie, I’m totally envious of all the warbler images you get and equally as glad you share them too

  3. Skip Harris November 18, 2011 at 7:58 am

    Congrats Mia. The images are great (as usual) and I am smiling with you. Yesterday I saw my first Cedar Waxwing. Very bad lighting but I captured a couple images just to document the event. Again I love the blog.

    Skip Harris

    • Mia McPherson November 18, 2011 at 1:39 pm

      How awesome that you were able to photograph your lifer Cedar Waxwings! I’m so happy for you, and I’m smiling too!

  4. Nicole MacP November 17, 2011 at 8:04 pm

    GORGEOUS pics!

  5. Robert November 17, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    Awesome! What a cool experience and wonderful images.

    • Mia McPherson November 18, 2011 at 1:38 pm

      Robert, it was a cool experience. They are gorgeous birds.

  6. Laurence B November 17, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    Great images of a handsome bird!

  7. Ron Dudley November 17, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    Very nice shots of an elusive (to say the least) subject Mia. I love that we can see the falcon tooth (tomial tooth) in the first image. I’m jealous that you got the wing spread that I clipped with my longer lens. Congrats on your “twofer” week!

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