Raptorpedia

American Kestrel

Nicknames:

Sparrow hawk, killy hawk, mouser

Identification Features:

  • Size of a blue-jay
  • Long, sickle-shaped wings
  • Long tail
  • Conspicuous head markings
  • Males: rufous to white underparts (sometimes with black spots), blue-gray wings, rufous backs, and rufuous tails with a black band and white tips
  • Females: streaked, creamy underparts; rufous barred backs, brown wings and tails

Wingspan: 1'8"-2'
Length: 8"-11"
Weight: 3.5-5 oz.

Flight Behavior:

They migrate alone, but occasionally fly in small flocks ith other raptors. Soaring only on occasion, they usually flap and glide in quick, erratic flight.

Vocal Call:

American Kestrels are fairly vocal during breeding season. The common call is a rapid, high-pitched klee-klee-klee-klee.

Feeding Habits:

American Kestrels are opportunistic hunters that forage in open areas with short vegetation. They are "sit-and-wait" perch hunters, commonly seen on utility lines along roadsides. They are also efficient at "hover hunting," flapping their wings in mid-air and hovering above fields while in search of prey.  The species mainly prey on small mammals such as voles, mice and small birds or reptiles, and insects like grasshoppers, cicadas, beetles, dragonflies, butterflies and moths.

American Kestrel Raptor Bites:

  • Habit of perching on utility lines or fence posts.  Often exhibiting a "tail bobbing" behavior
  • Often mistaken for Mourning Doves
  • Nest inside cavities made by other birds, perches for hunting, crevices in rocks or nestboxes built by humans
  • Females hunt in more open, less wooded areas
  • Found in pastures and parklands
  • Lay four to five eggs per season
  • Best chance to site is in late September
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