Common Names: American kestrel
Sub-category: Caracaras & Falcons
It is the most common falcon in North America, as it can live in a wide variety of habitats. The American Kestrel hunts by hovering in the air with rapid wing beats or perching and scanning the ground for prey. Its diet typically consists of grasshoppers, lizards, mice, and other small birds.
The American kestrel is sexually dimorphic, although there is some overlap in plumage coloration between the sexes. The bird ranges from 8.7 to 12.2 inches in length with a wingspan of 20 to 24 inches. The female kestrel is larger than the male, though less so than larger falcons, being typically about 10% to 15% larger within a subspecies. In contrast to many other raptor species, the sexes differ more in plumage than in size. Males have blue-grey wings with black spots and white undersides with black barring. The back is rufous, with barring on the lower half. The belly and flanks are white with black spotting. The tail is also rufous, with a white or rufous tip and a black subterminal band. The back and wings of the female American kestrel are rufous with dark brown barring. The undersides of the females are creamy to buff with heavy brown streaking. The tail is noticeably different from the male's, being rufous in color with numerous narrow dark black bars. Juveniles exhibit coloration patterns similar to the adults'. In both sexes, the head is white with a bluish-grey top. There are also two narrow, vertical black facial markings on each side of the head, while other falcons have one. Two black spots (ocelli) can be found on each side of the white or orangish nape.
American kestrels are found in a wide variety of habitats, including grasslands, meadows, deserts, and other open to semiopen regions. They can also be found in both urban and suburban areas. A kestrel's habitat must include perches, open space for hunting, and cavities for nesting (whether natural or man-made).