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American Kestrel

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The American Kestrel is also known as the Sparrow Hawk. It's a small falcon, and the only kestrel found in the America. American Kestrel is 20cm long. It is the smallest falcon in North America.

The American Kestrel hunts by hovering in the air with rapid wing beats or perching and scanning the ground for prey. Its diet typically consists of grasshoppers, lizards, mice, and other small birds. It nests in cavities in trees, cliffs, buildings, and other structures.

Its breeding range extends from central and western Alaska across northern Canada to Nova Scotia, and south throughout North America, into central Mexico and the Caribbean. It is a local breeder in Central America and is widely distributed throughout South America. Most birds breeding in Canada and the northern United States migrate south in the winter. It is an occasional vagrant to western Europe.

At about the size of a large thrush, the American Kestrel is the smallest falcon in North America. Plumage has more variation between the sexes than size. Males have blue-grey wings with black spots and white undersides with black barring. The back is rufous, with barring on the lower half. The belly and flanks are white with black spotting. The tail is also rufous, with a white or rufous tip and a black subterminal band. The back and wings of the female American Kestrel are rufous with dark brown barring. The undersides of the females are creamy to buff with heavy brown streaking. The tail is noticeably different from the male's, being rufous in color with numerous narrow dark black bars. Juveniles exhibit coloration patterns similar to the adults. There are also two narrow, vertical black facial markings on each side of the head, while other falcons have one. Two black spots can be found on each side of the white or orangish nape. The function of these spots is debated, but the most commonly accepted theory is that they act as ""false eyes"", and help to protect the bird from potential attackers. The wings are moderately long, fairly narrow, and taper to a point. While the kestrel is perched, the wingtips are noticeably shorter than the tail tip.

Photos

American Kestrel, White Rock Creek Greenbelt

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