American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)

American Kestrel


  • The American kestrel is a small falcon about 28 centimetres (11 inches) long.


  • The male of this species is very distinctive with reddish brown on the tail and back and blue on the head and wings.
  • The female is less conspicuous, being generally reddish brown banded in black.
  • The kestrel breeds throughout most of Alberta, as well as much of North and South America. It winters in its breeding range south of Canada.
Natural History


  • This bird is commonly observed on telephone lines where it rests between hunting forays into nearby ditches. Kestrels also hunt in open country such as fields, meadows and prairies.


  • In the summer and early fall, kestrels eat:
    • caterpillars
    • dragonflies and other large insects
    • grasshoppers
  • In winter, they rely on mice and small birds. When not perching on a telephone pole, or fence post, a kestrel may be seen hovering over one spot in search of prey.
Reproduction and Growth

Breeding Behavior

  • This falcon is a hole-nesting species, commonly using an abandoned woodpecker or flicker nest.
  • Four to six cream white eggs marked with reddish brown are laid on the floor of the unlined nesting cavity.
Conservation and Management


The American kestrel is classified as Secure in the General Status of Alberta Wild Species report:

Current management

Like all raptors in Alberta, the American kestrel is protected by the provincial Wildlife Act and classified as a non-game species.

Similar Species
  • Merlin

    The kestrel may be confused with the merlin in the field, but the bright browns and contrasting face colours of the kestrel help identify it.


Page Information

Posted: Oct 14, 2009