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Bat Falcon Spotted for the First Time in the United States

Bat Falcon on Rocks

Birders in Texas are abuzz with the news that a special visitor has been spotted there for the very first time. This visitor is the Bat Falcon. According to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, this sighting is more than just a first for the Lone Star State. This Bat Falcon sighting is the first recorded appearance of this species in the entire United States.

The Sighting

This particular Bat Falcon was actually spotted back in December of 2021, however the pictures from the sighting were just shared by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services on the 15th of February, 2022. Now, many bird enthusiasts in Texas are hoping that they aren’t too late to get a look at this exceptional raptor.

The bird from the sighting is believed to be a juvenile male. It was spotted at the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge in Alamo, Texas by a birder who was returning to the refuge hoping to verify a sighting. They witnessed the diminutive bird of prey hunting for large insects.

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All About Bat Falcons

The Bat Falcon is a nine to twelve inch long raptor that typically weighs between three and a half ounces and eight and a half ounces. Until recently, the range of the Bat Falcon was limited to South America, Central America, and swathes of Mexico. Although this bird is not considered rare or endangered, it is an unusual find in the United States.

Bat Falcons are named for their diet. They are a crepuscular species, which means that they are most active at dusk and dawn. During these hours they can be seen swooping through the skies in search of bats to eat. In addition to bats, Bat Falcons prey on small birds, large insects, reptiles, and rodents. A Bat Falcon has even been reported dining on fruit; an extremely unusual behavior for a raptor.

Why and How Has the Bat Falcon Come to Texas?

While this sighting is rightfully drawing a great deal of attention and fascination, it is hardly the first time that a wandering bird of prey has found itself far from its natural range. Many birders have been following the journey of the rare Steller’s Sea Eagle that has been making its way across the United States since the summer of 2020. Similarly, the semi-regular irruptions of Snowy Owls in the United States in the winter months are a major source of excitement. These two birds of prey exemplify the two main reasons a non-captive bird may be sighted outside of its regular range: irruption and vagrancy.

Irruptions are events, usually brought on by population surges, during which groups of birds are spotted outside the confines of their regular range. Typically, this occurs during a winter migration season when a species must travel further south than normal to seek out more food.

The Bat Falcon spotted in Texas is more likely an example of vagrancy. Vagrancy in birds is used to describe when a bird, perhaps through some defect or quirk in their internal navigation abilities, finds itself outside of its natural range. Usually, vagrancy refers to the behavior of an individual bird rather than a pattern.

So, can Texans expect to enjoy this unusual visitor in the long-term? Honestly, it’s difficult to know how long the Bat Falcon will stay without first determining why and how it ended up so far North of its regular habitat. It’s entirely possible that, like the vagrant Steller’s Sea Eagle, this small raptor is at the beginning of a much longer journey into parts unknown.

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