American Kestrel

Characteristics

The coloration of the feathers is greatly different between the sexes. Males have vibrant blue-grey secondary feathers on their wings, while the under parts are white with black barring. The belly and sides are white with spots of black. The tail is reddish brown, except for the outer rectrix set, which is white with a black band.  The back of the female is reddish brown with dark brown barring, and the wings are similar in color. The tail of the female is noticeably different from the male, being reddish brown in color with dark brown or black bars.  In both sexes, the head is white with a bluish-grey top.  The wings are moderately long, and fairly narrow, and are obviously shorter than the tail when perched.

Behavior

This kestrel spends a lot of time preening and frequently bathes.  When hunting, the American kestrel circles or glides in a figure eight patters to spot prey.  This falcon also hunts frequently from elevated perches, waiting for prey to move on the ground.  The kestrel bobs its head and pumps its tail just before attacking.  They form in strongly bonded pairs, which tend to be permanent. 

Did You Know?  

  • This falcon is also known as the Sparrow Hawk, though it is unrelated to the Eurasian Sparrowhawk.
  • The American kestrel is the smallest falcon in North America; about the size of a large robin.
  • The males’ vibrant coloration may make this falcon the most colorful raptor in the world.

Our Animals

We have been lucky enough to receive 2 males and a female, all donated from MSU.  Our most recent addition, a male, arrived here in May of 2009, and was hatched in 1994!

Video

Scientific Name Falco sparverius
Conservation Status IUCN: Least Concern
Size The female is slightly larger than the male, and can be up to 11 inches in length, with a wingspan of up to 24 inches.
Average Lifespan 2 to 6 years in the wild, and up to 15 years in captivity.
Wild Diet Small rodents, insects, and other birds.
The most common falcon in North America, it’s found from Alaska to the tip of South America