The Cutest American Kestrel You’ll Ever Seen

Rate this post

How do you know if a bird is an American kestrel? They’re small, striped, and cute – I mean they have to be the most adorable of all the falcons, right?

But what other identifying features do they have?

How can you tell if it’s really an American kestrel (Falco sparverius) and not one of their look-alikes, like the merlin (Falco columbarius) or hobby (Falco subbuteo)?

It’s not as hard as you might think.

5 Facts About American Kestrels

1. The kestrel can reach heights of 1000 feet above ground during flight.

2. When hovering, a kestrel flaps its wings about 100 times a minute but when diving to catch prey, it reaches speeds over 200 miles per hour.

3. While flying, a kestrels wings move so fast that they create turbulence and make birds flying below them change course.

4. There are two species of American kestrels: Falco sparverius and Falco rufigularis.

5. According to legend, there is a special gland inside every kestrels head that sucks up tears for sustenance if it is sick or injured.

What Does a Kestrel Look Like?

American kestrel sitting on a trunk of a chopped dry tree.
American kestrel sitting on a trunk of a chopped dry tree.

A kestrel is a small, brown and white falcon that has a pointed face and long wings. The American Kestrel has a wingspan of about 18-24 inches.

A kestrel is about 12-14 inches in length, with a black head and back; their chest is orange; they have grey stripes on the sides of their neck; and they have green eyes.

They also have black streaks on the front of their head that resemble an upside-down letter V. The female kestrels are larger than males, but both sexes have similar colorings.

Interesting Facts About the American Kestrels Beak

As you might be able to tell from its name, an American kestrel is related to falcons. In fact, its scientific name Falco sparverius makes reference to that relationship.

However, kestrels (the larger raptor of two) are actually more closely related to harriers and other hawks than they are falcons.

There’s a lot of genetic evidence behind their classification as members of Falconidae;

However, they share a number of characteristics with Old World vultures and hawk-eagles like hooded eagles and tawny eagles as well.

For instance, all three groups have relatively weak feet and large hooked beaks that are used for tearing apart prey.

The Benefits of Living in an Area with American Kestrels

Living in an area where American Kestrels are found is beneficial for many reasons. One of the main benefits is that they provide bird control for the area.

The American Kestrel is a bird that eats other birds. Their diet consists of flies, beetles, locusts, wasps, grasshoppers and many other types of insects.

They are often found near farmlands because this is where they will find their favourite food to eat.

They are much smaller than other birds which make them much more agile in flight and less likely to be hit by cars or buildings while flying around an urban environment.

They also have a slightly better vision than most birds which makes it easier for them to find food sources or threats in their surroundings.

How American Kestrels are Different From Other Raptors?

Kestrels are medium-sized raptors with long tails and broad wings. They are found in North America and parts of North Africa and Asia.

Kestrels are known for their hunting and aerial skills and are often seen in urban settings. They can be seen in parks and conservation areas.

They are also known for their bright and beautiful plumage and their ability to hover in place. Kestrels are generally seen in multiple-colored feathers rather than a single colour.

Few Things That Look Like an American Kestrels Eyes

To be honest, they look more like raisins. However, some species of birds actually do have eye spots that resemble kestrel eyes.

If you’re interested in seeing real kestrel eyes, though, I’d suggest checking out a European Sparrowhawk or Common Buzzard.

They have what could arguably be considered better-looking eyes than an American kestrel.

5 Kinds of Environment American Kestrels Live In

Tropical forests, boreal forests, desert mountains and areas in between, and even sometimes in suburban neighbourhoods.

Because these birds are so common and because they’re both cute and eat tons of insects. American kestrels tend to adapt easily to a variety of habitats.

However, wherever they live, these birds usually stick to open spaces with little or no vegetation.

That’s because their favourite food is not plants; it’s meat. Unlike other types of raptors that primarily feed on carrion (i.e., dead animals).

American kestrels hunt live prey by chasing down insects and small mammals.

Why Are There So Many Different Colour Variations in American Kestrels?

There are some 25 subspecies of kestrels around the world and in North America alone there are six different colour variations.

This multiplicity can be quite puzzling for a birder who travels from one region to another.

But there is actually a simple answer to why so many different types of kestrels exist: interbreeding with other birds.

Yes, it’s true: when these falcons migrate between geographic regions they mate with native birds, creating new variants over time that often look almost nothing like their predecessors.

Ways to Help Nestling American Kestrels

Protect Them While They’re Young – If you’re lucky enough to be near an active nest of kestrels, there are some things you can do to help.

If a chick is still in its nest and it seems like it needs food or is being bullied by its siblings, try removing any uneaten food or pebbles from around the box.

This makes it easier for adult kestrels to keep watch on their little ones.

Additionally, sometimes chicks will stay in their nests long after they should have fledged; removing them gently can help them learn how to fly more quickly.

Facts About Juvenile Kestrel
American Kestrel is trying to sit on the roof.
American Kestrel is trying to sit on the roof.

Juvenile kestrels have distinct markings that differ from their adult counterparts. The juvenile kestrel has black spots on its white breast, as well as a brown cap.

The adults do not have these markings, and instead have dark feathers. Juvenile kestrels also have different feeding habits than adults.

Since they are unable to hunt for large prey items, juveniles feed on insects such as grasshoppers and crickets.

When they are ready to become adults at about one year old, juvenile kestrels begin hunting rodents and other small mammals including squirrels and mice.

American Kestrel Flying Details

This small falcon was one of many bird species we saw during our visit to Rockport, Massachusetts.

The birds have short tails and curved wings, which help them hunt for prey in their environment.

They’re surprisingly speedy fliers, too. With a top speed of over 100 miles per hour, kestrels are classified as members of the fastest animals on earth club.

This particular little guy (or gal) was on its way to find lunch… probably a tasty songbird.

Based on its size, I’d guess it’s one of several North American subspecies of kestrels:

Specifically either a female Eastern or Mississippi kestrel or possibly an immature male Cooper’s hawk.

American Kestrel Scientific Name

Falco sparverius. The Kestrel is a small bird of prey. Adult kestrels have slate grey upperparts and pale underparts with dark streaks, Their wings are blackish with two whitish bars.

They have a white rump with black streaks on it. The male and female are identical in appearance.

Juvenile birds resemble adults, but have more dark streaking on their upperparts and less-pronounced wing bars.

American Kestrel Eggs and Hatches

American Kestrel both sexes incubate their two-egg clutch for about 11 days until it hatches, with an additional two weeks until both chicks fledge.

Young will spend another 3–4 weeks near their parents before finding their own territory.

American Kestrel Male vs Female

This isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. Male kestrels tend to be larger, while females are generally smaller; males have more brown on their upper bodies and have thicker bills than females.

But we all know that birds in a flock aren’t identical to each other. Instead of looking for size or plumage differences, simply look at your kestrel’s face:

Male faces will typically be mostly blue, while female faces tend to have more red on them-especially around their eyes and beaks.

American Kestrel Migration

Every year, from August through November, hundreds of thousands of raptors migrate south and join together in massive flocks to spend their winter in South America.

Some species, like golden eagles and prairie falcons, prefer to fly above all other birds on a V-shaped path to their final destination.

Others, such as red-tailed hawks and kestrels, migrate below all other birds on an inverted V-shaped path so they can keep an eye out for food along their way.

The migration is one of nature’s most impressive displays, but can you spot it?

American Kestrel Reproduction

Unlike most birds of prey, kestrels don’t build nests. Instead, they lay their eggs in abandoned woodpecker holes or tree cavities.

Most nest holes are about a foot and a half above ground level.

The female lays two to four eggs once per year, usually laying all of them at once when she’s done laying each egg (this is called clutching).

Incubation takes 28 days for each egg and is done only by females; male kestrels have nothing to do with incubating or rearing young.

Once they hatch, chicks take 30 days to grow feathers enough to fledge (leave their nest). Both parents feed the young until they can fly at about 42 days old.

American Kestrel Lifespan

Kestrels have an average lifespan of 7 to 10 years, with some individuals living up to 20 years. Captive kestrels can live 15 to 18 years.

As with most raptors, they show a high mortality rate during their first year; however, adults are quite long-lived.

Their bodies tend to weaken later in life, however, as is typical for many other animals. A healthy adult kestrel can be expected to live roughly seven years from its release into the wild.

American kestrel Fun Facts

There are over 3,500 species of birds around the world. The greatest diversity is in South America, which has almost half of all known species.

The tropics are home to more than 10% of bird species. A group of flamingos is called a flamboyance.

This word was created by putting together their scientific name and an English word that sounds similar.


What is a kestrel?

A kestrel is a small falcon. Specifically, it’s one of North America’s two kites–the other being its slightly larger cousin, the Mississippi kite. Although several different kinds of birds are called kites, only two true species make up what scientists refer to as North American Accipiters, which include Cooper’s and sharp-shinned hawks. Accipiters are known for their distinct colouring and medium-sized bodies; they’re also very adept hunters: Accipiters can dive after prey at high speeds and even hover like smaller falcons.

What is the American kestrel Diet?

The majority of American kestrel diet consists of small mammals such as mice, voles, shrews, and moles. They also consume large insects such as grasshoppers which can be found on lawns in summertime when they may use long grass as cover to stalk prey unseen.

What is the American Kestrel Mating or Breeding?

American kestrel mates for life Pairs are territorial and remain on their breeding territory from spring through fall; during winter they often travel together but do not defend territories.


There are some adorable birds in America and one of them is called a kestrel.

This bird is frequently mistaken for other birds, because it has similar characteristics to more common birds.

For example, many people mistakenly call it a sparrow hawk. If you ever see one, though, don’t be fooled.

It’s not always easy to spot since they’re so small; kestrels range from 3–4 inches long (8-10 cm).

Despite their tiny size, these little birds can still pack a powerful punch when defending themselves.

They can attack predators with beak strikes, talon stabs and kicks with their back legs. Nature is crazy sometimes.

I hope you enjoyed our article about the American Kestrel. If yes, then do share these articles with your loved ones, family, and friends.

Thank you for Reading!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.