American kestrel

The smallest of falcons in the entirety of America, but you would be mistaken to take this bird lightly

Vince Maidens

The American kestrel, North America’s diminutive yet charismatic falcon, captivates observers with its striking plumage and remarkable adaptability. As the smallest and most widespread falcon on the continent, this dynamic raptor boasts a distinctive appearance characterized by its vibrant coloration and intricate patterning.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the American kestrel is the unique plumage dimorphism exhibited between males and females. Unlike many other raptor species where size serves as the primary distinguishing factor between genders, American kestrels rely on subtle differences in plumage characteristics to differentiate between males and females. Males showcase a handsome ensemble of white undersides adorned with intricate black barring, complemented by elegant blue-grey wings punctuated by bold black dots. The rufous hue of their back, coupled with distinctive barring, adds a touch of warmth to their overall appearance. In contrast, females exhibit a more subdued palette, with rufous-colored backs and wings intricately marked with dark brown barring. Their undersides feature creamy to buff tones embellished with delicate dark brown striping, creating a subtle yet elegant contrast.

Beyond their aesthetic appeal, American kestrels are renowned for their adaptability and versatility across a diverse range of habitats and ecosystems. From open grasslands and agricultural fields to urban areas and forest edges, these falcons demonstrate remarkable flexibility in their choice of habitat. Their ability to thrive in diverse environments reflects their opportunistic hunting strategy and wide-ranging diet, which includes small mammals, insects, and even birds.

In addition to their remarkable plumage and adaptability, American kestrels exhibit fascinating behaviors and ecological interactions. They are often observed engaging in aerial displays and courtship rituals during the breeding season, showcasing impressive agility and acrobatics in mid-air. Their keen hunting prowess and lightning-fast strikes make them formidable predators, capable of capturing prey with astonishing precision and speed.

Distribution

Country
Population est.
Status
Year
Comments
Anguilla
2016
Antigua & Barbuda
2016
Argentina
2016
Aruba
2016
Bahamas
2016
Barbados
2016
Belize
2016
Non-Breeding
Bermuda
2016
Bolivia
2016
Bonaire Sint Eustatius And Saba
2016
Saba, Sint Eustatius
Brazil
2016
British Virgin Is.
2016
Canada
2016
Cayman Islands
2016
Chile
2016
Colombia
2016
Costa Rica
2016
Non-Breeding
Cuba
2016
Denmark
2016
Vagrant
Dominica
2016
Dominican Republic
2016
Ecuador
2016
El Salvador
2016
Estonia
2016
Vagrant
Falkland Islands
2016
Malvinas
French Guiana
2016
Grenada
2016
Breeding
Guadeloupe
2016
Guatemala
2016
Guyana
2016
Haiti
2016
Honduras
2016
Jamaica
2016
Breeding
Malta
2016
Vagrant
Martinique
2016
Mexico
2016
Montserrat
2016
Nicaragua
2016
Panama
2016
Paraguay
2016
Peru
2016
Portugal
2016
Vagrant
Puerto Rico
2016
Saint Barthélemy
2016
Seasonality Uncertain
Saint Lucia
2016
Saint Martin
2016
French Part
Saint Pierre
2016
Saint Vincent
2016
Sint Maarten
2016
Dutch Part
South Georgia
2016
St. Kitts & Nevis
2016
Trinidad & Tobago
2016
Turks & Caicos
2016
US Minor Is.
2016
Seasonality Uncertain
US Virgin Islands
2016
United Kingdom
2016
Vagrant
United States
2016
Breeding
Uruguay
2016
Breeding
Venezuela
2016

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No