American Kestrel


This robin-sized bird is the smallest and most common North American falcon, 9-12 inches long, with a wingspan of 20-24
inches; females average 4.5 ounces, males about 3.5 ounces.

Adults have a short neck; a small head with black-and-white pattern and dark, vertical, whiskerlike marks on the sides of the head; slender, pointed wings; and rufous red tail, with black subterminal band and narrow white tip. Male and female are colored differently. Females have rufous backs and wings barred black; males have rufous backs and blue-gray wings. Call is a rapid “klee, klee” or “killy, killy.”

Kestrels favor open habitat, borders of woods, and farm country.

Prefers nesting cavities of flickers and hollows in trees, but will nest in bird boxes built for it, typically 10 to 30 feet off
the ground.

April to June, usually 4-5, cream or pale pink with brown blotches.

Mostly by the female, about 30 days; the male calls the female from the nest to feed her. Young leave the nest about 31 days after hatching.

Kestrels hunt mostly in morning and midafternoon, and fly with rapid wingbeat and short glides, often hovering in midair
with rapidly beating wings—a key identification feature. Kestrels swoop to grasp prey and fly to a perch to eat it. When perched, the bird often flicks its tail— another identification feature. These little falcons eat insects, bats, mice, birds, and frogs.

Once known as the sparrow hawk, this is the smallest North American falcon. It often is seen in populated areas, where it perches on utility poles and wires. Often they are found around open farm lands, hovering above the ground in search of prey. Kestrels will sometimes nest under eaves and in holes in
buildings. Their range is all of North America except Alaska. Those in the northern part of their range migrate to the
southern states to winter. They can live to at least 6 years, but usually less in the wild. 

Kestrels nest throughout the state, but are less common in heavily forested areas. The species has declined in the last decade.