Birds of Prey

American Kestrel

Latin name: Falco sparverius
Weight: 2-6 ounces
Wingspan: 20-24 inches
Life expectancy: 2-5 years

Habitat and Distribution: They reside in a variety of habitats ranging from open fields, mountain meadows, grassland deserts, open woodlands, agricultural land and cultivated areas with scattered trees, to urban areas. American Kestrels are typically cavity nesters with both parents incubating and feeding the young. American Kestrels are found from eastern Alaska and southern Canada, southward through out the United States into Mexico and South America. Northern populations winter as far south as Panama.

Diet: American Kestrels eat a wide variety of food including insects, small mammals and birds.

Status: No special status.

Personal Biography: The New Canaan Nature Center's resident male American Kestrel came to us in June 2002. He has a right wing injury that prevents his release to the wild. The Kestrel was an adult when injured, so we are not sure of his age. The resident female American Kestrel came to us in August 2004 as an immature from a rehabilitator in Michigan. The Kestrel, along with her four siblings, was illegally kept for three weeks by a well-meaning family. The Kestrel was imprinted to people making her non-releasable (she sees people as a food source).

Facts: American Kestrels, sometimes known as sparrow hawks, are in the Falcon family. Typically, members of this family have long pointed wings making them very adept aerial fliers, with many being able to catch prey in mid-air. They have toothed and notched beaks which are used for killing prey with a bite to the neck.

American Kestrels are sexually dimorphic, meaning the male and female can be distinguished from one another. In American Kestrels, the markings that are present on the adult plumage separate the male from the female. Male American Kestrels have blue-gray wings and a spotted breast while the females are rufous (reddish-brown) colored with a streaked breast. Both sexes have the rufous colored back and tails and the mustached black and white face pattern. The female is usually slightly larger than the male.


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You can help support the care of our live animal collection by participating in our Sponsor an Animal program. Your financial support funds the cost of medications, food and personal care, as well as proper housing and upkeep of the animal enclosures. Because each animal's needs are different, the cost of sponsorship varies. For information about animals which are currently available for sponsorship call (203)-966-9577.