Artwork by

Kestrel Notecard



Kestrel (Falco sparverius)

The American Kestrel is the smallest and possibly the most abundant bird of prey in North America. Like all falcons, it has large powerful eyes and a compact body with long, pointed wings designed for speed and agility. Look for this brightly colored falcon perched on telephone lines and fence posts bordering empty fields, where it hunts for insects, small snakes, and mice. The kestrel will characteristically sit watching the ground below while bobbing its head and twitching its tail. Then quickly, it’s hovering, holding itself above its prey before it pounces.

Generally with eagles, hawks, and falcons, the male is smaller then the female but otherwise the sexes look the same. With kestrels, however, the male plumage is distinctly different from that of the female. Head and facial markings are similar but the shoulder of the male is blue-gray marked by black spots, while the female’s body is an overall streaked brown.

Kestrels are curious and vocal birds’ singing the shrill “killy, killy” during the breeding season. They nest in tree holes or other cavities in both the open country and city. Using nesting boxes, farmers have encouraged kestrels to breed on their land to help protect their crops from insect, bird, and rodent damage. By understanding this enduring bird’s needs and habits we’ll be able to accept their gifts to us, as we all learn to live together on this planet.

artwork by Linda Matusich © 2004

text by Kara Jean Hagedorn