Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Mini-Hunter – The American Kestrel

The American kestrel is a small falcon found in North and South America. Often referred to as sparrow hawks, American kestrels are the smallest falcons in the Americas, as well as the only kestrels. They are extremely numerous, with an estimated 4 million living on the two continents. American kestrels are 7-8 inches in length and have a wingspan of less than two feet, making them very small for a bird of prey. Females tend to be larger than males and lack the blue-grey coloring found on the male’s wings and head.
American kestrels can be found from subarctic Canada all the way south to the tip of Tierra del Fuego. They prefer to live in open areas with plenty of available perches such as trees, fence posts, and power lines. This allows them to see and pounce on small prey such as grasshoppers and mice. However, when adequate hunting perches are not available, the American kestrel is capable of hovering in place using very rapid wing beats, not unlike a hummingbird.
Most American kestrels migrate south each winter, but depending on local weather conditions may become full-time residents. Regardless, in the winter most female kestrels will stay in open country with better hunting available and force the smaller males into deeper woods. Kestrels prefer to nest in cavities in trees, and will occasionally nest in holes carved out by large woodpeckers. Their desire for covered nests and open hunting ground has led them to naturally adapt to urban and suburban environments, and they nest frequently in building alcoves.

No comments: