Wild American kestrel (Falco sparverius) in flight, stooping from left to right (Taken at Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area, 5 miles southwest of Columbia, Missouri).
Perhaps the most colorful raptor in the world, the American Kestrel is the most common falcon in North America. It is found from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, and in towns as well as wild lands. Identifying marks inlcude small size, rufous back and tail, and two dark mustache marks on face. Male has blue-gray wings and a lightly spotted chest and belly. The larger female has rufous wings barred with black, and streaking on the chest. This particular bird is a female. Their call is a loud series of “klee-klee-klee” notes when excited. As with many other raptors in North America, their population n umbers dramatically declined in the 1950’s and 1960’s, but have increased greatly in recent decades with increasing deforestation of North America. They are aslo commonly called Sparrow hawk. Although hover-hunting is conspicuous, this foraging method actually is used rather infrequently. It is used most often when suitable perches are not available, or when winds are strong enough to create updrafts favorable to hovering. In winter in many southern parts of the range, female and male American Kestrels use different habitats. The female uses the preferred more open habitat, and the male uses areas with more trees. This situation appears to be the result of the females migrating south first and establishing winter territories. The males then are forced into the less preferred areas. Nestling kestrels back up, raise their tails, and squirt feces onto the walls of the nest cavity. The feces dry on the cavity walls and stay off the nestlings. The nest gets to be a smelly place, with feces on the walls and uneaten parts of small animals on the floor.
Source used to construct this page:
Smallwood, J. A., and D. M. Bird. 2002. American Kestrel (Falco sparverius). In The Birds of North America, No. 602 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.