America’s smallest falcon, the kestrel is also the most familiar and widespread in North America. In the open country, it is commonly seen perched on roadside wires or hovering low over a field or rapidly beating wings, waiting to pounce on a grasshopper. Kestrels nest in cavities of trees, in places where there are few large dead snags to provide nest sites.
Kestrels feed mostly on large insects, also some small mammals (voles, mice, sometimes bats), small birds (the size of a quail), lizards, frogs, earthworms, spiders, crayfish, and other items. Grasshoppers are amongst its favorite prey, but many other large insects are taken, including beetles, dragonflies, moths, caterpillars and others.
The American Kestrel hunts mostly by watching from a high perch, then swooping down to capture prey. Sometimes, especially when there is no good perch available, hovers over fields to watch for prey.
Length: 10.5 inches
Wingspan: 23 inches
Habitat: Open country, farmland, cities, wood edges. Inhabits any kind of open or semi-open situation, from forest clearings to farmland to desert, wherever it can find adequate prey and some raised perches.
Range: Throughout North America, including much of Canada.
Conservation Status: Declined in the northeast in recent years, but numbers elsewhere are still healthy. The eastern population are thought to be affected by the loss of open habitat due to human development and agricultural abandonment leading to reforestation, with a subsequent increase in Cooper’s Hawk predation.