The smallest falcon found in the state, the American Kestrel is often seen perched on telephone wires and
poles, or hovering over fields in search of prey. They can be among the
most abundant raptor in the state at times, especially during migration. American Kestrels will
use nest boxes designed for the species. The photo on the right shows an
adult male. Females are more plainly colored.
Habitat: Prefers open country with raised perches
and access to nesting cavities.
Diet: Mostly large insects and small rodents, also
small birds, reptiles, and amphibians.
Behavior: Primarily hunts by watching from a high
perch and swooping down when prey is spotted. Will also hover while
searching for prey. During courtship, male and female will often fly
together, with the male passing food to the female while in flight.
Nesting: May through July. The nest of an
American Kestrel is built in a cavity, often a cavity in a tree, either a
natural cavity or an old woodpecker hole. They have also learned to
utilize appropriately sized nest boxes. The female usually lays between 4
and 6 eggs. Both parents help to incubate the eggs. When the eggs
hatch, the male initially brings food while the female tends to the young, but
soon both parents are bringing food back to the nest site. The young
fledge after about 4 weeks.
Migration: Semi-permanent resident in the southern
two-thirds of the United States. Canada and northern U.S. populations
generally move south in the fall, although some may remain in mild winters.
Similar Species: Merlin
Birdhouses: Will use nestboxes made for Kestrels.
2) Cornell University's "All About Birds - American Kestrel"
Photo Information: February 2nd, 2006 -- Big Sioux
Recreation Area -- Terry L. Sohl
Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or
text links below for additional, higher-resolution American Kestrel photos.