- Falco sparverius
9-12" (23-30 cm). W. 21" (53 cm)
A jay-sized falcon, often seen hovering. Recognizable in all plumages by rusty tail and back.
Adult male has slate-blue wings but black-spotted rusty mantle and scapulars, which dominate the view from the back when perched.
Female has rusty wings and back, narrow bands on tail.
Both sexes have 2 black stripes on face.
In the Caribbean, both very dark and very pale forms occur.
North America: widespread and very common, found from Alaska and Canada east to Nova Scotia and south to Mexico.
Central America and South America: found in most appropriate habitats south to Patagonia.
Caribbean: found almost everywhere except where it is or recently has been persecuted.
Northern populations are migratory, moving as far south as Panama.
About 17 races are recognised:
- F. s. sparverius: occurs in much of North America
- F. s. paulus: in the south-eastern United States
- F. s. peninsularis: in Baja California and western Mexico
- F. s. tropicalis: in southern Mexico, Guatemala and northern Honduras
- F. s. nicaraguensis: in north-west Honduras and Nicaragua
- F. s. ochraceus: in eastern Colombia and north-west Venezuela
- F. s. isabellinus: in the Guianas and east Venezuela
- F. s. aequatorialis: in north-west Colombia and north Ecuador
- F. s. caucae: Mountains of western Colombia
- F. s. peruvianus: in south-west Ecuador, Peru and north Chile
- F. s. cinnamominus: from south-east Peru to Tierra del Fuego
- F. s. fernandensis: on Masatierra and Juan Fernandez Islands
- F. s. cearae: in southern Brazil
- F. s. sparverioides: occurs in the southern Bahamas and Cuba
- F. s. dominicensis: in Hispaniola
- F. s. caribaearum: in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Lesser Antilles
- F. s. brevipennis: in the Netherlands Antilles
Open forest and woodland, semi-desert, plains, grassland and cultivated land with scattered trees. In some areas a common urban bird.
Frequently hovers in mid-air while hunting.
Their main diet consists of insects and small invertebrates. The nominate subspecies mostly hunts for small rodents.
This is a cavity nesting species. Clutch of 4-5 cream colored eggs with blotches and mottling.
Resident or sedentary over most of range. Race sparverius, from Alaska, Canada and northern USA migratory.
- Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2019. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World: v2019. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
- White, C.M., Kirwan, G.M., Christie, D.A. & Boesman, P. (2020). American Kestrel (Falco sparverius). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/53219 on 27 February 2020).
- BirdForum Member observations
- Smallwood, J. A. and D. M. Bird (2002). American Kestrel (Falco sparverius), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bna.602
- Global Raptor Information Network. 2020. Species account: American Kestrel Falco sparverius. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 27 Feb. 2020
- Ely, T.E., et al. (2018). Morphological changes in American Kestrels at continental migration sites. Global Ecology and Conservation 15: e00400.
- BirdForum Opus contributors. (2021) American Kestrel. In: BirdForum, the forum for wild birds and birding. Retrieved 14 May 2021 from https://www.birdforum.net/wiki/American_Kestrel