American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)
American Kestrel Falco sparverius
Sound (109 KB)
10.5 inches (27 cm) W 23 inches (58 cm)
• Blue-gray wings
• Chestnut back with black spots
• Chestnut tail with broad black tip
• Two black stripes on white face
• Short, dark, hooked beak
• Small, long-tailed hawk
• Long, narrow, pointed wings
• Gray crown
• White cheeks
• Two black mustache marks
• Black spot at rear of crown on both sides
• Seen from below, flight feathers are pale with dark barring
• Juveniles and immature females like adult female
• Rust patch on crown
• Rust nape, breast, back and tail
• Rust tail has a broad black subterminal band and a narrow white terminal band
• Pale belly
• Blue-gray wing coverts
• Dark flight feathers with pale subterminal spots creating a "string of pearls"
• Black spots on scapulars, wing coverts and flanks
• Pale buff breast streaked with brown
• Rust-brown nape, back and wing coverts
• Back and wing coverts barred heavily with black
• Rust-brown tail with numerous dark bars of even width and a narrow white terminal band
• Barred rust-brown back barred heavily with black
• Streaked breast
• Sharp-shinned Hawk is of similar size, but has rounded wings and much different patterning. Merlin is larger with broader-based wings, lacks rust tones to back and wing coverts, has a single mustache mark and strongly checkered underwings.
Borders of woodlands, farmlands, open fields, pastures with scattered trees, marshes, suburban areas, grasslands, arid plains, deserts with giant cacti, wooded canyons, forest openings. Often seen perched on wires along roads in rural areas. Hunts on the wing, often hovering. Often pumps tail up and down upon landing. Smallest falcon. Common.
NESTING & FEEDING:
BREEDING: Open or partly open habitats with scattered trees, also cultivated and urban areas. 1 brood, 2 in s and when small mammal prey very abundant. Mating system is monogamous.
DISPLAYS: Male flies rapidly in wide circles above perch, bends quivering wingtips down, calls, occasionally joined by female before realighting on perch. Pair bow, female constantly calling. Desert populations incorporate courtship feeding.
NEST: Little, if any, nesting material. 12 to 80 feet high in trees or on cliff.
EGGS: 4-5 White/pinkish-white, marked with browns, occasionally lavender, occasionally unmarked. 1.4" (35 mm).
CHICK DEVELOPMENT: Female incubates with help from male. Incubation takes 29-31 days. Development is semialtricial (immobile, downy, eyes closed, fed). Young are able to fly after 30-31 days. Both sexes tend young.
DIET: Also occasionally birds. In desert, young eat only insects for first week, later also mice. Occasionally aerially forage for insects.
CONSERVATION: Winters s to Panama. Readily uses nest box.
NOTES: Often uses same nest for second brood; male feeds fledglings of first brood and incubating female. Caches vertebrates, usually in grass clumps. Competes with other hole-nesters for nest sites. Promiscuous matings occasionally occur before monogamous bonds form. In winter, individuals defend territories; females prefer habitat that is open and sparsely vegetated, males prefer denser vegetation. Formerly known as Sparrow Hawk.
Falco sparverius AMERICAN KESTREL. Open country, scrub, desert, farms, towns, pine savanna. Lowlands and mts. to 4400 m from w,c Alaska n to s slopes of the Brooks Range, nc Yukon, cw,sc Mackenzie and n Alberta e across c,se Canada to s Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, s to the s U.S., Gulf coast and s Florida; and to s Baja Calif.; Guadalupe I.; Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila and Nuevo León s in c Mexican highlands to e Michoacan, México and Puebla; s Oaxaca; Chiapas and s Guatemala to s Honduras and lowland pine savanna of e Honduras and ne Nicaragua; Bahamas n to Eleuthera; Greater and Lesser Antilles s to Guadeloupe; from Colombia, Venezuela, Netherlands Antilles e to Margarita I., but absent from Bonaire and s Amazonas Prov.; to Trinidad, Tobago, Guyana, French Guiana and n Brazil in Roraima s, mostly in mts., through Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile (incl. Más-á-Tierra in Juan Fernández Islands) and Argentina to Tierra del Fuego, and e of the Andes (exc. most of Amazonia) over tableland of c,e Brazil to Paraguay and Uruguay. Northern populations winter from se Alaska and s Canada s to n South America.