American KestrelFalco sparverius

adult male
Arthur Morris/VIREO
adult female
Arthur Morris/VIREO
adult female
Arthur Morris/VIREO
adult female
Richard Crossley/VIREO
adult male
Lloyd Spitalnik/VIREO
adult male
Rob Curtis/VIREO
American Kestrel
American Kestrel

Family

Description

9-12" (23-30 cm). W. 21" (53 cm). A jay-sized falcon, often seen hovering. Recognizable in all plumages by rusty tail and back. Adult male has slate-blue wings. Female has rusty wings and back, narrow bands on tail. Both sexes have 2 black stripes on face.

Voice

Shrill killy-killy-killy.

Listen

klee-klee-klee alarm call
begging calls of captive
calls of male

Habitat

Towns and cities, parks, farmlands, and open country.

Range

Breeds from Alaska and Northwest Territories east through Maritime Provinces and south throughout continent. Winters north to British Columbia, Great Lakes, and New England. Also in American tropics.

Discussion

Unlike larger falcons, the "Sparrow Hawk" has adapted to humans and nests even in our largest cities, where it preys chiefly on House Sparrows. In the countryside it takes insects, small birds, and rodents, capturing its prey on the ground rather than in midair like other falcons. The female does most of the incubating and is fed by the male. The male calls as he nears the nest with food; the female flies to him, receives the food, and returns to the nest. After the eggs hatch, the male continues to bring most of the food. The young stay with the adults for a time after fledging, and it is not uncommon to see family parties in late summer.

Nesting

4 or 5 white or pinkish eggs, blotched with brown, placed without nest or lining in a natural or man-made cavity.

Similar Species

adult male

Merlin

10-14" (25-36 cm). W. 23" (58 cm). A jay-sized falcon, stockier than American Kestrel. Slate colored (males) or brownish (females) above; light and streaked below. Long tail boldly banded.

adult female

Sharp-shinned Hawk

10-14" (25-36 cm). W. 21" (53 cm). A jay-sized, fast-flying hawk with a long, narrow, square-tipped tail and short rounded wings. Adult slate-gray above, pale below, with fine rust-colored barring.

Vireo

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