Falcons in Michigan (5 Species with Pictures)

Crested Caracara

There are only five different species of falcon that can be found in the state of Michigan. 

These are:

  • Crested Caracara
  • American Kestrel
  • Merlin
  • Gyrfalcon
  • Peregrine Falcon 

Want to learn more? This book on the Birds of Prey of North America is a fantastic read!

The Peregrine Falcon in particular has been thriving in Michigan, the number of breeding pairs of these falcons dramatically increasing over the last few years.

Michigan is a state with a continental climate, its summers are short and warm whilst winters can be long and icy. There are 103 state parks in the state of Michigan and there are five different national parks. 

A popular place for bird and falcon watching is in the Upper Peninsula as over 300 species of birds reside in these parts. Now that we’ve looked at what types of falcons can be seen in Michigan and a little about the state, let’s go into more detail of these five amazing falcons.

Want to attract birds of prey to your yard? Take a look at our article!

What Falcons can be seen in Michigan?

Table of Contents

1. American Kestrel

American Kestrel





Life Expectancy

11 Years


Insects, some small rodents / birds

This bird is the smallest of all the falcons found across North America. They are covered in rusty brown feathers and they have white bellies and slate blue heads. 

These are territorial birds and in recent years have been moving their territories closer to urban areas. 

During the mating season these birds will fight off others of their species and have even been seen grouping up to fight off larger hawks that invade their territory. 

They can also be seen making swooping dives to advertise to other kestrels that that area has been claimed.

American Kestrels are actually very helpful to Michigan’s economy, lots of farmers have started added kestrel boxes around their lands so these small falcons can help rid them of pests. 

One such place with lots of kestrel boxes and a good chance for spotting these birds is Leelanau County in Michigan. If you are wanting to see these birds off of farmland you will have the best chance of spotting one in wide open fields.

Their mating season ranges from March to August, they are much more active during these months and searching during the mating season will greatly increase your chances of encountering a breeding pair of American Kestrels. 

They also hunt during the middle of the day so that is the best time for you to settle down with your bird-watching equipment.

2. Crested Caracara

Crested Caracara





Life Expectancy

26 years



The Crested Caracara is identifiable by its heavy bill and white neck, whilst the rest of its body is covered in dark feathers. These birds are solitary and only interact with others from their species during the mating season. 

That being said, these birds do usually mate and stay together for several years and will always nest in the same territory. Nesting in the same tree if it is possible. 

Crested Caracaras hunt by swooping and they use the ground to get a short run up before taking flight, this means they like to avoid densely wooded areas.

The best place to try and see these falcons is in open wooded areas, such as grasslands, farmlands and even some golf courses. 

Their nests will be built in the tallest tree surrounding this area, this is where you have the best chance to try and spot one of these gorgeous birds. A repeated siting of a Crested Caracara has also been noted in the town of Munising.

It is difficult to see Crested Caracaras year-round in Michigan, if you are planning to go bird watching the summer months are better for your to do so. 

In Michigan they have been spotted mostly in June and July which are both in the centre of this bird’s mating season so they are likely to be more active and more territorial.

3. Merlin






Life Expectancy

Up to 10 years


Small birds

Merlins are only small falcons, covered with dark, streaky feathers. Unlike many other falcons, Merlins do not make their nests themselves. Instead the opt to use abandoned nests that other birds have made, such as crows. 

These falcons can be found across a large part of North America and are mostly seen in open grasslands. These birds will only mate with one individual during the mating season, but they will often find a new mate each year.

This particular falcon is quite rare in Michigan compared to other species. That being said, there is still a good place to try and spot them in Michigan which is in the Upper Peninsula. 

They can also be spotted in other northern areas of the state, but the Upper Peninsula is your best chance of spotting one of these falcons in Michigan.

Merlins usually stay in Michigan over summer, migrating further south in the winter to deal with the colder weather.

 They will usually stay in Michigan from April till October. April is the best chance to see them as this is when they make their migratory return to the state.

4. Gyrfalcon






Life Expectancy

Up to 14 years


Mostly small birds

A Gyrfalcon’s body is covered in streaky grey feathers and it is one of the largest falcons found in the state. 

They are monogamous falcons that mate for life, a lot of breeding pairs will spend the whole year together, not just the mating season. 

These breeding pairs like to build their nests on the cliffsides where possible, sometimes reaching nesting heights of 5000ft. 

These birds are very territorial and will fight other falcons that try and move in on their territory. They do issue warning calls however if a falcon gets to close. It is a sharp call that lets the other bird know that this territory has already been taken.

There have been lots of reports on both good and bad places to see a Gyrfalcon. In Michigan you are most likely to see one of these birds in Sault Ste. They have been sited in the Lower Peninsula as well, but these are much rarer occurrences.

These birds only seem to come into the United States during the winter months, when they migrate south to avoid the colder months of the arctic. 

You’ll only be able to see these falcons in Michigan through the months of October to January.

5. Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon





Life Expectancy

17 Years


Mostly birds

Peregrine Falcons are one of the largest species of falcon and they are distributed widely across the globe. Their bellies are covered in white feathers and their backs are covered dark grey feathers. 

They are known as the fastest bird and can reach immense speeds of 200mph when diving to reach prey. Males will prepare several nesting sites during the mating season and the female will pick her favourite before breeding.

These falcons are classified as endangered by state law and you are most likely to see breeding pairs of Peregrine Falcons in the southeast of the state, with 10 recorded returning breeding pairs. 

They have been reintroduced in cities across Michigan and make their nests cliffside, relatively close to the urban areas where they were released.

Your best chance to see a Peregrine Falcon is during its mating season. This is through the months of February to July. 

They are more active during these times, the males hunting for an increased amount of food. During the winter some birds will migrate south to avoid the colder months, so your best chance to see one is in the spring.


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About Us

We are avid bird-watchers who recently retired, allowing us more time to travel the world. Fortunately, we have managed to visit numerous countries around Europe, Asia, and America. Watching and photographing birds has been a passion for many years and we are making the most of the extra time on our hands!

1 thought on “Falcons in Michigan (5 Species with Pictures)”

  1. We had either an American Kestrel or a Merlin land in our backyard in Roseville, MI yesterday morning. It was about 4 or 5 inches tall and it sat on the ground long enough for me to take several photographs. It stayed in our yard for at least 2 hours.

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