There are five falcon species that live in North America. Of those, three can be seen almost every winter here in Western Montana and the Bitterroot Valley. Bob Danley, in this week's Bitterroot Outdoor Journal, reported that Hamilton's Christmas Bird Count tallied six prairie falcons last month. In the summer, the Prairie Falcon can be found in places like the Big Hole, with more open fields. The Prairie Falcon is smaller than the Peregrine Falcon (which was reintroduced to the Bitterroot Valley from 1989 to 1993). You can see the falcons, and other hawks and eagles on the power poles lining the roads in the rural areas of the Bitterroot. The Prairie Falcon is usually hunting rodents and mammals up to jackrabbit size, along with smaller birds.

Where to see them? Try Tammany Lane east of Hamilton, Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge (along the county road) and up Eight Mile Creek Road. West of Missoula off Mullan Road is good area, too. By the way, the Bitterroot Audubon Society will feature a slide show on the reintroduction of the Peregrine to the Bitterroot January 21. That will be at the North Valley Public Library at 208 Main in Stevensville at 7 p.m.

Here's a general I.D. chart for you from Bob.

Falcon silhouettes. (Bob Danley)