American Kestrel


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Scientific Name: Falco sparverius

Description: small falcon; long tail; long, pointed wing tips; rust colored crown, back and tail; double black stripes on white face resembling a mustache; hooked bill; in flight they have pale underwings

Sex: male has blue-gray wings, a buff breast and white underparts with dark spots; in flight he has a row of circular white spots on the trailing wing edge; female lacks the blue-grey feathers that denote the male; her back and wings are roufous with pronounced barring; juveniles are similar to adults but with a heavily streaked breast and completely barred back

Age: up to 5 years in the wild

Length: 9″-12″

Wingspan: 20″-24″

Weight: 3-5 oz.

Habitat: open country, deserts, urban areas, farms, wood edges

Range: North and South America, West Indies, Juan Fernandez Islands, Chile

Behavior: monogamous; don’t build nests; lay 3-7 buffy-pink to grayish-white eggs marked with brown in tree cavities, building crevices or old magpie nests; incubation lasts 29-31 days, generally by the female; chicks hatch semi-altricial and leave the nest after a month; 1 brood per year except in the south and when food is abundant; hunts by hovering over the ground with rapid wing beats or sitting on a tree or telephone wire and plunging after its prey; frequently bobs its tail while perched on telephone wires; use nestboxes often

Diet: mice, insects and small birds, reptiles, small mammals

Vocalization: shrill “killy killy killy” or “klee, klee, klee”

Fun Facts!
– American Kestrels was formerly known as the “sparrow hawk.”
– Male kestrels will repeatedly soar high up into the air, call loudly, and then dive back towards the ground when establishing their territory.
– Kestrels can frequently be seen “hovering” over the grassy areas of highway cloverleafs where they find an abundance of insects and rodents. A good example of how they have adapted their hunting skills to urban living.

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