American Kestrel

The American Kestrel is a fairly common falcon in North and South America. It is also our smallest falcon, measuring 9-12 inches (22-31 cm). For comparison, the ubiquitous Rock Pigeon found in cities all over the world measures 12-14 inches (30-36 cm). They are found near open areas where they hunt grasshoppers, cicadas, beetles, and dragonflies; scorpions and spiders; butterflies and moths; voles, mice, shrews, bats, and small songbirds. However, they are often prey for larger raptors and other predators due their small size. They will often use the wind to help them hover over an open field as they search for their prey. Despite their similarity to the “true” kestrels of Europe and Africa, DNA evidence suggests that they are more closely related to North American falcons like the Prairie and Peregrine Falcons.

This is a female that I photographed in a meadow. The black stripes on the head are often referred to as a moustache and sideburns. The back and wings are actually a rusty-red but the lighting wasn’t quite right in this shot. It is obvious in another photo in this post though.

Fellow birder Dave and I had spotted five Kestrels the previous morning. They were all actively hunting so these are all in flight photographs. The rusty-red color shows in this female.

The males have slate-blue wings and heads. The mix of colors is quite striking. Males also have a large dark band on their tails.

Although they are fairly common, their numbers are slowly and steadily decreasing, primarily due to loss of habitat. They have adapted to suburban environments to some degree but the old growth trees and open fields that are their normal habitat are being developed out of existence. So, yes, he’s looking to us to help preserve some of his living space.

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