September 2011: American Kestrel

American Kestrel


American Kestrel

Falco sparvarius


Who am I?

I am a falcon. Please don't be fooled by my size. I am the smallest bird of prey in North America and I am fierce. Small, but fierce -- no, I am not insecure about it! Not at all. I am about as big as a dove but much prettier. I have a blue head, blueish wings and a tan back with black spots. Of course, my mate is not as pretty as I am. She is mostly tan with spots on her back. This is good, her colors help her hide when she is sitting on our eggs. When we are ready to start a family I will scout out the available homes -- usually old woodpecker holes and other cavities. My mate gets to decide where she wants to lay her eggs. She will lay 4 or 5 eggs and then sit on them for a month or so. When our babies hatch they are small and weak and mom and I are busy trying to keep them fed. They will stay in the nest for another month until they are ready to fly off on their own. My mate and I may then have a second family ... if there is time before it gets too cold.

Where can you find me?

I am easy to find. Usually I hang out on fence posts, telephone poles and lines and sometimes on the ground eating lunch. Look for me when you are driving through farm land. I hunt during the day and in open areas so really, you can't miss me.  I am a falcon and yes, I might live in Atlanta and even go to games every now and again where I will try to catch moths under the bright lights. I am far more entertaining than those other falcons running around on the ground in their silly costumes. My brethren and I live throughout the United States and southern Canada.

What do I eat?

Anything that can fit in my mouth and occasionally things that can't! Mostly I will eat grasshoppers and cicadas, moths and dragonflies, mice and voles -- yup. anything that will fit in my mouth. I usually hunt my prey when they are on the ground, but you might see me snagging some unsuspecting butterfly from mid-air. When I do this my mate says I am showing off.

What might eat me?

Anything that can fit me in THEIR mouth! This might include snakes, hawks, crows and owls. Sometimes it is not so great being small. But don't forget, I am fierce! I will chase those pesky hawks and crows if they make me mad. Feisty, that is what I am.

Cool reasons why I am the critter of the month!

  • My babies are messy. They poop on the walls of our nest and leave their uneaten food bits laying around. Of course, they keep themselves clean ... they just never clean their room!
  • Like other birds I can see ultraviolet light which makes mouse pee glow. Cool huh. Makes it easier to find and eat them.
  • Like some other birds of prey, I will hide extra food to eat later. Might hide some in a clump of grass, a hole in a tree, in your boot that you left on the porch. (Not really.)


Young Kestrel

Photo Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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