Sunday, April 18, 2010

Nature Guide: American Kestrel

Photo by Angela Jenkins

The most colorful bird of prey in our area is the American Kestrel. About the size of a robin, it is the smallest and most common falcon in North America. Our Nature Guide Jon Latimer tells us more.

"The American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) is easily identified by its small size, its reddish back and tail, and the two dark mustache marks on its face. Males have blue-gray wings with black spots. Their underside is pale buff to orange, with a variable amount of black spotting, especially along the sides. The wings and tail of a female are reddish with black bars or bands. Her underside is creamy to buff, heavily streaked with brown. Juveniles look similar to adults.

"The American Kestrel used to be called a Sparrow Hawk because of its small size, but it is actually a falcon. Kestrels are found from Alaska to the southern tip of South America, in towns and cities as well as open land. It will nest in a cavity in a tree, in a building or in a nesting box.

"Kestrels hunt large insects, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and other birds. They often watch for prey from tall perches, such as trees or telephone poles. They also hover in the air, scanning the area below. Depending on how much wind there is, a kestrel may not have to flap its wings to hover. After a short while, the kestrel may move to a new position and hover again. When it finds its prey, it will dive down to catch it.

"Kestrels in our area are migratory, spending winter in northern Panama or the West Indies. According to some recent reports, their numbers are declining, although there doesn't seem to be a significant trend across North America."


Unknown said...

Thanks Jon,
A truely beautiful 'bird'.... love to catch him in my lens!
Is it possible to attract them to an area?