The size of size of a Blue Jay,
the American Kestrel is the smallest falcon to be found in North America. Some common names for this small raptor include “sparrow the hawk” (after the closely similar Eurasian Sparrowhawk), and “grasshopper hawk” because of one of its most sought-after prey species, and “killy hawk” because of its shrill call. This American Kestrel is found in the same habitat that birds share, such as Barn Swallow, Eastern Meadowlark, and Barn Swallow.
Eyes at the Rear of Their Heads
American Kestrels are spotted with two black spots, referred to as the ocelli (“little eyes” in Latin) located at the back of their head. These fake “eyes” assist in protecting this tiny falcon from predators that may sneak up from behind, whether they’re predators, or even stealing songbirds. American Kestrels also sport two black vertical facial markings on the sides of their head, contrary to other species of falcons, which only have one.
The 17 distinct subspecies that comprise the American Kestrel are recognized throughout the entire range of the species with distinct colors the length of their wings, as well as plumage patterns. As opposed to other raptors, such as Bald Eagle, Bald Eagle male American kestrels female and male vary in appearance and size. Texas Birds Males that are
smaller have more vivid colors, with blue-gray wings, an orange tail, one black bear, and sharp black spotting that is visible on the white belly. Females are cream and rufous with brown barring all over.The differences between subspecies are often noticeable. For instance, a lot of Caribbean birds are devoid of spots and bars. The Cuban race is dark-headed and gray-backed without facial stripes.
It’s pretty easy to spot the American
Kestrel by its fast flight and its habit of bouncing its tail up and down as it sits. The bird is also very vocal and can be heard shouting loud and repeating: “killy killy, killy” when it is scared or exciting. Listen here:
The American Kestrel’s wide breeding range extends across Alaska along with northern Canada southwards to the southern United States, central Mexico, and the Caribbean, and across South America. The majority of birds breeding in Canada and the northwestern United States migrate to the southern U.S., Mexico, and Central America for the winter.
American Kestrels eat grasshoppers, insects, and other species, in addition to lizards mice, and even small birds. This wide diet allows them to reside in many different regions throughout the Americas.
The kestrel hunts during the daytime, usually employing a “sit-and-wait” method similar to that of an olive-sided Flycatcher and The Flammulated Owl. If a kestrel in the hunt spots prey, it dives down to the ground in order to capture it and eat it on the ground or fly back to a perch to enjoy its food.
American Kestrels are also
able to hover hunt when the conditions permit this is when a Kestrel, with an intense headwind, that flaps its wings, is suspended in the air in one place and is scouting the ground beneath for prey.
Similar to other birds like those the Rusty-faced Parakeet and The Ruby-throated Hummingbird, American Kestrels can detect ultraviolet light, which is an important aid to the hunt. In the case of kestrels, the rodents are known to leave trails of urine, which reflect ultraviolet light while they move across the ground. These glowing trails that are invisible to human eyes are a guaranteed way for hungry kestrels to locate a meal.