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American Kestrel

Falco sparverius

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22 - 31cm

50 - 61cm

80 - 165g

3 - 5 yrs

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The American kestrel is North America’s most common species of falcon. Research suggests that it is not, in fact, a true kestrel, and is more closely related to larger falcons such as the peregrine. It is one of the more popular birds used in falconry, and is considered a good choice for beginners. This is likely due to US requirements that your starting bird must be trapped from the wild.

Least Concern

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LC

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The upperparts of both sexes are largely rufous in colour, however the male’s wings are a bluish grey and their tails tend to have white and black bands at the tip. The undersides are cream, but the male’s are brighter with black spots, whereas females have heavy brown streaks. Black markings on the face supposedly act as “false eyes”.

What Does it Look Like?

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What Does it Sound Like?

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The primary call is known as the “klee”. It is usually repeated in succession as a “klee, klee, klee…” with the intent changing depending on the context in which it was used, but it generally means the kestrel is either excited or upset. They will also produce chittering sounds when communicating with kestrels of the opposite sex, such as during courtship.

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Although it only targets smaller prey, it still has a large and varied diet. It primarily feeds on insects such as grasshoppers and dragonflies, but also eats small rodents like voles and mice as well as birds and reptiles. It prioritises conserving energy and is often seen waiting on a perch before hovering low over fields to stalk prey.

What Does it Eat?

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Where Does it Nest?

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They prefer to use tree cavities, but will use cliff ledges or the disused nests of other birds. On average, four or five eggs are laid and incubated for 30 days by the female, although sometimes the male takes over. After just 4 weeks, the chicks’ wings will have developed enough for them to leave the nest, and they are able to breed from one year onwards.

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It can be found across most of the Americas from Alaska and Canada in the north, right through Central America and the Caribbean, down as far as Tierra del Fuego in South America; it is absent only from the Amazon vicinity. It vast range of habitats include grasslands, meadows and deserts, as well as an increasing presence in urban areas.

Where Does it Live?

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What is its Status?

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It is the most common raptor species found in North America, with a population that has remained stable for over 40 years and thought to number in the millions. Its only threat is from human activity, such as road traffic collisions. That said, certain local subspecies, such as F. s. paulus, have seen rapid declines due to a lack of suitable nesting sites.

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