Faithful readers of this blog have probably noticed that I post more images of Aplomado Falcons than other bird species. In part, I can hardly help but share my images of these birds because it is such a striking species of raptor. All raptors are beautiful in their own light but the Aplomado just stands out for its bold, beautiful pattern.
They combination of orange vent and belly, black cummerbund, and snow white chest and throat are simply captivating. When you see these birds in the air, they have a slim, rakish appearance, and impressive fast flight. Both sexes are similar and juveniles are pretty similar to the adults but not as bright and have streaks on the breast.
I usually get images of these beautiful falcons at the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge as they perch on fence posts. They watch and wait for small mammals and birds that frequent the coastal prairie and when a suitable prey item is sighted, they are after it in a flash of black, white, and orange.
Another reason why I keep photographing Aplomado falcons is because they are so rare. According to the Peregrine Fund, which monitors the population, there are only 73 known Aplomado falcons in the entire U.S., of which there are 15 known nesting pair in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. After early successes, there are signs the population may now be declining. They are listed on the national and state endangered species list and found only in two areas of Texas and around the White Sands region of New Mexico.
The Eastern Screech Owl is a much more common and widespread raptor species. Although these nocturnal birds are infrequently sighted, there is a fair chance that you have heard one if you live in or near wooded areas in the eastern USA. They make a descending whinny like sound and a fast series of whistled hoots.
Keep an eye out for Aplomado Falcons at Laguna Atascosa and check those tree cavities for Eastern Screech Owls!