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Prairie Falcon Nest Watch, Klickitat County

July 21, 2017

3.19.17 I saw a Prairie Falcon sitting high on a cliff while doing my raptor survey for East Cascades Audubon Society.  I knew from experienced friends to not directly look at, point to or otherwise make myself known to him so I slowly slid the tip of my lens out my barely rolled down window, took aim & quietly grabbed these shots.

He perched for a bit at this nest site, then back up to the cliff.

He flew overhead several times then landed below the nest, looking around as if determining whether or not this was a good spot.  I didn’t want to discourage him, so quickly left, hoping he’d choose that spot for a nest.

It was a beautiful sunny spring day in the Gorge.  This nest will be “the western-most PRFA scrape we know of on the Washington side of the river”, according to wildlife research scientist, Jim Watson of WDFW…I’m ever so grateful for his sharing of information with me.

3.23.17  A few days later I was thrilled to see the Prairie Falcon IN THE NEST!!  He seemed to be skittishly looking around and I hadn’t seen a mate so didn’t know if this would be the final nest choice yet.  Again I quickly left.

3.28.17  Prairie Falcon sitting in front of nest on cliff, I was excited to see him still here!

4.9.17   He’s still there!

4.20.17  My day began with a sunrise at Catherine Creek.

Darn, no Prairie Falcon today…..

4.25.17  There was no one home again at the nest, but I spotted a Prairie Falcon close to an historical nest site a couple of miles away from the nest I’m watching.

I only observed him a few minutes before he flew.

5.2.17  My friend, cjflick joined me at the nest site to help me confirm whether or not the Prairie Falcon was indeed using this as a nest.  Typically falcons don’t build nests, they use a ‘scrape’ (bare rock) or cliffside dwelling previously made by other raptors.  Once again there was no Prairie Falcon at the stick nest site that I’d found.

5.4.17   No sighting again, but I’m learning more about these falcons.  They begin breeding at about two years old.  During courtship the pair visit potential nest sites together for about a month.  They eat small mammals, birds and insects and on average only live 2.5 to 5 yrs in the wild. Why do they not live longer?  Sadly the top three causes of death are gunshot, hit by cars and run into fences.  Fourth is owl predation.         

5.11.17  No action in the nest again today….should I give up on this one?  cjflick encouraged me to keep watching.

5.19.17   After not observing any activity for a month, I am thrilled to see a Prairie Falcon on the nest today!

Later, when I zoomed in on today’s photos, I saw a parent’s head in the far back of the nest!  Had they been incubating all this time?  I learned they incubate for 29 – 39 days, so my answer is YES!  You can barely see the falcon’s head behind a front stick that stands up at an angle.

5.23.17  today I see one parent at the edge of the nest.

5.25.17  I spot a Prairie Falcon on a ledge near the nest.

I can’t see any action IN the nest.   If only my camera could zoom UP and IN!!

5.27.17  was an exciting day.  I watched a Prairie Falcon take off from a cliff above the nest…..

He flies down towards the nest…..

It happened so fast I couldn’t keep my camera focused on the raptor, but I think what happened is he grabbed a rodent, took it to the nest and now the mate is flying out of the nest with said rodent.

Then she repositions the rodent from her beak to her  talons while in flight!

She now has the rodent in her talons, while still in flight, and heads back up to the cliffside perch above the nest.

Her mate stays back at the nest, presumably with the young chicks…or Eyases as their technically called (if used for falconry).  I’d rather call them Falconettes.

As if that weren’t enough excitement, an Aurora is predicted tonight.  I decide to stay up and watch it despite my 4am wake up call this morning.  I had to quit about midnight but heard that I should have waited for the better show only 30 minutes later.

5.30.17  LOOK!!  WE HAVE CHICKS!!  Another exciting day for me in my ‘Prairie Falcon Nest Watch’!!  You can barely see their fuzzy white heads above the sticks.  The ‘nestling’ time is 29 to 47 days.

Looking at their size and comparing them to other chicks I’m watching, they are probably the same age as the Peregrine Falcons.  I’ll share a link to that page as soon as it’s written.

Falconettes stretch their wings while a parent gets out for a breath of fresh air.  Just kidding.  The nest stays clean because they eliminate out the front door ~ you can see the white stain on the front rocks.

Trying to remember to post pictures of my surroundings while I am enroute to or at all my ‘Nest Check’ locations.

6.3.17   THREE Falconettes in the nest!  How adorable they are!!  At three weeks brown juvenile feathers poke through the white fuzz, so I’m guessing they could be four weeks here.

6.8.17  Did I say three?  We have three Falconettes and what a difference five days make!  At 5 to 6 weeks old, the white fuzz disappears and their brown feathers have grown in.  I’d better check in on them more frequently.

They flap their wings and race from side to side of the nest.  What fun to hear them call to one another or their parents.

It was enough to make this parent fly out the front door!

6.10.17  Two days later, they’re still racing back and forth across the nest opening.  Their wings are darker and as you can see they’re taller!

Yes, they can be still.  They settle down for a short while….

…then resume practicing future flight techniques.

6.13.17  The triplets call and wait for a parent to bring lunch.

A parent must be getting closer, the Falconettes act excited and race across the nest opening.

The parent is closer, the Falconettes race toward the direction of her arrival.

She drops off lunch then leaves immediately after feeding.

Back to hunting for the family.

6.15.17   omg the kids are out of the nest!  Technically, when they leave the nest, they’ve ‘fledged’.

I did not see them go further than the front porch and they scramble back into the nest when a parent flies in with food.

The parent stayed long enough to deliver lunch, then took off again.

Back to the job of hunting for a hungry family.

6.17.17  A beautiful sunny Gorge day.

When I arrive at the nest I find it EMPTY!!  Falconettes have Fledged!  Where are they???

Movement caught my eye up on the cliffs.  Oh just look at them outside practicing flight techniques together!

I watched the fledglings practicing their take-offs and landings on this cliff and a grassy spot nearby.

Perched high on a cliff, they also appeared to chase down prey but I couldn’t tell if they caught anything.

They appeared to feed each other….licking lunch off each otter’s beaks?

I wondered where the third sibling was, then found him nearby on a grassy slope near the cliffs.

6.19.17   I’m told the Prairie Falcon fledglings will hang around as their muscles further develop, perfecting their flight and hunting skills for a couple weeks.

I found all three today, this one is practicing take-offs and landings.

This one was racing around the neighborhood.

6.22.17  Falcon fledglings still hanging around.  Only found two today up on the cliffs but the third is probably nearby.

6.23.17   Prairie Falcons practice hunting skills!  They had bloody beaks, so they must have caught prey themselves.

6.24.17  Prairie Falcon fledgling practicing flight skills.

He takes off, flies a bit, then lands not too far away from where he started.

Taking a little rest in the shade while his siblings are beyond the edge of the cliff.

6.27.17   Prairie Falcon fledglings were difficult to find until they moved while hunting on the rocks below their nest.

As the morning wore on they were easier to find when the sun lit them up.

All three are still near their original nest.

6.29.17  Prairie Falcon fledgling taking off in flight below their nest. They’ve become more graceful in flight.

Another Prairie Falcon fledgling in flight above the cliffs…

Third fledgling hunts in an area also near their nest.

7.2.17   Prairie Falcon fledglings chasing each other across the cliff.

They’re still so much fun to watch.  Like kids, having races, calling each other, and generally having a good time learning life skills.

7.4.17   Prairie Falcons are still near their nest, practicing, learning, and maturing.

This was my last visit but I may go check to see if they’re still there once I finish this series of blog posts.

If you’d like to learn more about Prairie Falcons, in addition to All About Birds I found more information at

University of Michigan Museum of Zoology and Seattle Audubon

The introductory post in this series where you’ll find links to my other nests as I write them is Empty Nest

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