Common Name

Scientific Name


Photo by Unknown Photographer
Photo Courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

The American kestrel (Falco sparverius) breeds throughout much of North America. Populations in Alaska, most of Canada, and parts of the northern U. S. migrate south to the southern U. S. and Mexico for the winter, but breeding pairs farther south may remain together in the same area year round. Migrating individuals may travel south as far as Panama and northern South America. In Utah, this is a common species found statewide at all times of the year. American kestrels are usually found in open habitats, such as prairies, deserts, wooded streams, and farmlands.

Nests are made in natural holes in trees, abandoned woodpecker holes, cliffs, and nest-boxes. Usually four or five eggs are laid and incubated, mainly by female, for 29 to 31 days. Young are tended by both parents and leave the nest about 29 to 31 days after hatching. Young may stay with the parents for an additional four weeks or more. If a clutch is lost, a pair will readily lay a replacement clutch. In summer, American kestrels feed mainly on insects, especially grasshoppers and crickets, and small vertebrates. During the winter, its foods are mainly birds and mice. American kestrels often hover while foraging, and are frequently seen using this technique along highways.


  • Ehrlich, P. R., D. S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birder's handbook: a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon and Shuster, Inc., New York. xxx + 785 pp.

  • Baicich, P. J., and C. J. O. Harrison. 1997. A guide to the nests, eggs, and nestlings of North American Birds, Second Ed. Academic Press, San Diego. 347 pp.