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The American Kestrel is the smallest species of falcon in North America and one of the most colorful.

Appearance

They are small falcons reaching up to 15 inches long. Males have a blue wing, bare tail, and black spots on its chest. Females have brown wings, chestnut spots on its chest, and a barred tail. Both sexes have a white face, black "ears", a black teardrop, blue cap, red spot on top of the cap, rufous nape, breast, and collar, chestnut back, tail, black wing tips, and a black spot on the nape.

Occurrence

They live all over America, wintering in Central America, breeding in Canada, and living year-round in the United States. Kestrels live in semi-open country.

Life History

Kestrels eat insects, birds, and mice. They nest in old woodpecker holes, natural cavities, and nest boxes.

Trivia

  • The American Kestrel is shrinking in body size.
  • Sports fans in some cities get an extra show during night games: kestrels catching snacks on the wing. Some of their hunting flights have even made it onto TV sports coverage.
  • Unlike humans, birds can see ultraviolet light. This enables kestrels to make out the trails of urine that voles, a common prey mammal, leave as they run along the ground. Like neon diner signs, these bright paths may highlight the way to a meal.
  • American Kestrels hide surplus kills in grass clumps, tree roots, bushes, fence posts, tree limbs, and cavities, to save the food for lean times or to hide it from thieves.
  • The oldest American Kestrel was a male and at least 14 years, 8 months old when he was found in Utah in 2001. He had been banded in the same state in 1987.
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