american kestrel

American Kestrel

Falco sparverius


The American Kestrel is the most colorful North American falcon. The male kestrel has a rust-colored back with black bars, a rust-colored tail, and bluish-gray wings. Females have brown bodies with black bars on their backs and tails.


American Kestrels are the smallest falcons on this continent, measuring 9-12 inches long (with a 20-25 inch wingspan) and weighing 3-5 ounces. Female kestrels are slightly larger than the males.



In the wild, American Kestrels eat insects, small mammals such as voles and mice, small birds, frogs, lizards, and snakes. At Cosley Zoo, the kestrels are fed mice, rats, and quail.


The American Kestrel is a cavity nester and nests in holes in trees, artificial nest boxes, or small spaces in buildings. Both males and females incubate the eggs, which hatch about 30 days after being laid. The normal clutch size is 3 to 5 young. The young grow very quickly, assuming adult weight in about two and a half weeks, and are able to fly about a month after hatching.

Shelter and Space Needs

American Kestrels are found in various environments, including parks, suburbs, open fields, forest edges, alpine zones, and deserts. In addition to requiring open space for hunting, American Kestrels need perches to hunt from, cavities for nesting, and a sufficient food supply. They can be found in both urban and rural areas, hunting along roadsides from telephone wires or trees or hovering over fields.

Life Expectancy

The American Kestrel lives an average of 2-5 years in the wild, but can live up to 15 years in captivity.

Importance to Man

Kestrels are an important part of the food chain, helping to keep populations of prey animals under control. They also eat animals such as mice that humans consider to be pests.

Fun Facts