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American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)

American Kestrel or Eastern Sparrow Hawk

Falco sparverius

(Order: Falconiformes, Family: Falconidae)

Copyright Charly Mann 2009: 


Diagnosis. The American Kestrel is the most common and smallest of the American falcons, averaging only 27 cm for the males and 58 cm for the females (like many falcons and other birds of prey, the female is the larger of the two). Both sexes are characterized by the red back and tail, but more prominently by the facial banding. Sometimes referred to as the “moustache” and “sideburns”, both sexes have two black bands on their face. The male has a more prominent slate colored patch on the head, as well slate colored wings; the female has russet wings matching the rest of the body. The Kestrel is also easily identified by the prominent “tail bob” when perching.

Female (Copyright Ned Harris 2008:


Natural History. During mating season, Kestrels only take one partner (it has been suggested that they mate for life), and both the male and the female are responsible for the care of the brood. Utilizing about any cavity she can find, the female will lay between 4-7 eggs; however, she will lay less eggs if she breeds late in the season. After spending three weeks in the nest being cared for by both parents, the chicks leave the nest and begin to fly, but remain close to the parents for another couple of weeks.



Within Kansas: The Kestrel is common throughout Kansas and has established breeding pairs in most of the state (indicated by white dots), with only a few western counties with no reported breeding (indicated by black dots).

Photo courtesy:

Within North America. The Kestrel is found throughout North America, summering in the northern reaches, but year round elsewhere.


Last Updated: December 2, 2009 by Paul Lehman


Call (note the tail bob) 


Habitat. Can be found in any open area where it can dive upon its prey from above, becoming increasingly seen in cities. Particularly seen on electrical wires.

Diet. Insects, small mammals, reptiles, and sometimes even smaller birds when other food is scarce, forms the primary diet of the Kestrels.

Conservation Status. IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern


            All About Birds: Bird Guide

            Bird Fellow: Social Field Guide


Dunn, Jon L., and Jonathan Alderfer. Field Guide to the Birds of North America. 5th. Washington D.C.: National Geographic, 2006. Print.

Forbush, Edward H., and John May. A Natural History of American Birds of Eastern and Central North America. New York: Bramhall House, 1955. Print.

Sockman, Keith W., and Hubert Schwabl."Covariation of clutch size, laying date, and incubation tendency in the American Kestrel."Condor: Cooper Ornithological Society 103.3 (2001): 570-578. BioOne.Web. 26 Jul 2012. <[0570:COCSLD]2.0.CO;2?prevSearch=american+kestrel&searchHistoryKey=&queryHash=80069365787ac5e2021aa0cac8b5d2e9>.


Submitted By: Em Capoun, July 2012

Wichita State University
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