Prairie Falcon Attempting An Incognito Takeoff

High perches are unusual in the flat bottomland expanses of Montana’s huge Centennial Valley so the few that exist can be a draw for raptors and other birds.


Yesterday morning this imposing ranch gate on the remote “North Road” of the valley provided me some wonderful opportunities with both a family of Mountain Bluebirds and an elusive Prairie Falcon. Today we’ll have a look at the falcon.



1/4000, f/7.1, ISO 500, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

Prairie Falcons are nearly always extremely difficult to approach and until I found this bird each one of them I’d seen on this trip had spooked from about a quarter-mile away. So I was pleasantly surprised when this one allowed a significantly closer approach.

It was apparently reluctant to leave the easy hunting views provided by the huge ranch gate in the previous photo. And I was even more surprised that the falcon turned out to be an adult instead of a (usually) more approachable juvenile.

It was relaxed at first (as demonstrated by this clenched foot pose) but the more time I spent with it the more it seemed to be a little concerned about my presence. I prepared for takeoff but given the direction it was facing I was concerned about the possibility that the massive log beam it was perched on would block my view of the bird as it took off.

And that’s exactly what happened.



1/4000, f/7.1, ISO 500, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

This is the best shot I was able to get of the takeoff because the falcon was almost immediately hidden by the thickness of that huge log beam. I actually suspect that the shy bird purposely chose that flight path in a deliberate attempt to remain as incognito as possible as it lifted off.

Because of the presence of the massive log so close to the falcon’s body the image is far from a classic takeoff shot but for my tastes it’s just different enough to have significant interest.



15 comments to Prairie Falcon Attempting An Incognito Takeoff

  • Stephen Clayson


    “Significant Interest” is part of all of your shots. I enjoy and learn from each of them. Thanks. Enjoy Vacation/Camping. Is there a Marriott close?


  • Sgkritzik

    We were fishing today not far from the Centennial Valley, as the Falcon flies. Had a pair of Prairie Falcons circling over us and landing on the cliffs above the river for hours today. It was a real treat. Quite a coincidence when I read your post. Do they nest on cliffs like Peregrines do?
    Thanks for all the wonderful photos!

  • Sigh.
    A stunningly beautiful area – and bird.
    What a wonderful, wonderful place to decompress.

  • Joanne OBrien

    Nice photos of a beautiful bird! And it’s great to see those wide open spaces.

  • Patty Chadwick

    Although I love the bird shots, in this case the first is my favorite…looks like a well-maintained ranch, judging from the gate and “wing wall”.. A little surprised not tovsee a cattle guard…

  • Laura Culley

    Splendid! Just splendid!
    In my fantasies, I’d really like to fly a tiercel prairie some day soon. There are SO many doves and quail and even rabbits/jacks here, oh the possibilities. We’ll soon see if there’s enough of me to do something like that.
    Not sure if I’ve mentioned this before or not (I’ve slept since then–stuff falls out!), but just in case any of you want to go on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” ancient/arcane falconry language presumes that the falcon is the female. The male, who is roughly a third smaller than the female, is called a tiercel, from the French meaning (roughly translated) a third smaller. So it would be a prairie falcon or a tiercel prairie. And darn aren’t they just spectacularly beautiful!!!!
    I just love those big log-beam entrances. And these big, open skies, along with the overall lack of humans makes me happy. Add in a prairie falcon (and I would guess her to be a female) just makes my day.
    Again, thank you!

  • Marty K

    So glad you got to spend some time with the falcon. Thank you for including the background shot as well. I like the way the gate frames the buildings.

    Enjoy! 🙂

  • Bill lindner

    Maybe it was doing a couple of push-ups to loosen up a bit or just needed to scratch his chest.

  • Marty K

    I had the same thought, Judy! Surf’s up! 😉

  • That’s an amazing bird. Love the wings

  • Susan Stone

    I’m always happy to see a Prairie Falcon. These are interesting shots of this one. I also like the perspective shot – it gives a great sense of how peaceful the area is – what a good place you are in to decompress.

  • Dick Harlow

    Beautiful! Love the shot and thanks for putting in the first shot, gives perspective to what you are seeing each day!

  • Barby

    Lovely Ron, hope you’re having fun! 🙂

  • Charlotte Norton

    Great shots Ron!

  • Judy Gusick

    Cute! – looks like it’s “body surfing” on the log.:) They have their reasons for sure.