American Kestrel

Common Name: American Kestrel

Class:  Aves

Order: Falconiformes

Family: Falconidae

Genus: Falco  

Species: Falco sparverius

photo Ivan Andrijevic

 

Taxonomy/Description

 

The American Kestrel is part of the Falconiformes order, the group of diurnal birds of prey.  Its name comes from the Latin “falco,” which refers to the sickle shape of their talons or shape of their wings in flight and “sparverius” which means “striped” referring to the underside of their wings.

 

Roughly the size of a Robin, they are the smallest falcon in North America with a length of 20-29cm (8-11in), mass of 111-120g (3.9-4.2oz), and wingspan of 51-61cm (20-24in).  Males are smaller than the females and the coloration between the sexes varies.  Males have blue-grey wings while females are rufous wings.  Both have a blue-grey head, rufous tail and back, and “moustache” marks on the face.

 

Habitat/Diet

 

American Kestrels live in many different habitats such as parks, suburbs, open fields, forest openings, grasslands, marshes, plains, and deserts.  They need to have open space in order to hunt as well as perching areas which they use to scan the area for potential prey.

 

Their diet consists of large insects, such as grasshoppers and dragonflies, as well as small rodents such as mice and voles.  American Kestrels have also been known to eat other small birds.  They hunt in a multitude of ways such as hovering until is sees its prey, then drop from the sky.  It will also hunt from perches, waiting until it sees its prey from an elevated site.  They will sometimes even harass other, larger, birds such as hawks.

 

Behavior/Reproduction  

 

The American Kestrel hunts in a multitude of ways such as hovering until is sees its prey, then drop from the sky.  It will also hunt from perches, waiting until it sees its prey from an elevated site.  They can be relatively aggressive and will sometimes even harass other, larger, birds such as hawks.

American Kestrels form strong bonds and have been known to reestablish previous bonds.  They nest in cavities, such as hollow trees, rock cavities, and man-made nest boxes.  Both male and female take turns caring for the eggs and chicks.  Eggs incubate for around 30 days and the young are able to maintain flight in 26 to 31 days. 

 

Where to see them in WNY

 

American Kestrels can be found in areas where they can find their prey, and since they eat both insects and vertebrates these areas vary greatly. 

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