American Kestrel

Falco sparverius
Prepared by: 
Bob Walton
  • Length  9-12 inches
  • Wingspan:  20-24 inches
  • Weight:  Male  80-140 g.  Female  84-165 g.  
  • Plumage:
    • Male:  blue wings, red tail, underparts pale with spots
    • Female:  brown, upper parts barred, underparts streaked
    • Both sexes have malar stripe and stripe behind ear coverts
17 recognized, 2 in US
Ubiquitous, except on tundra. Up to tree-line (3700 m) on mountains.
Largely insects (60%) and small vertebrates. Hunts from perch, but may hover. Food is ofter cached. May hunt as family, usually with young.
March-July in NA. Solitary. Makes no nest; is normally a cavity nester. Uses holes in trees, banks, or cliffs; can be attracted to nest boxes. Sometimes will use an old magpie’s nest, or will choose a sheltered corner of a ledge on urban buildings. Clutch 4-6 eggs in NA. Can breed at one year of age.
Resident or sedentary over most of range. Kestrels from Alaska, Canada, and northern US move south for winter. These "leapfrog" past resident birds and may go as far south as Panama or the Caribbean Islands.
The wintering population in North America is estimated at 236,000 birds. Total breeding population is 1,200,000 pairs. Decreasing in Florida, Texas, and Arkansas due to habitat alterations.