American Kestrels nest in cavities, although they lack the ability to excavate their own. They rely on old woodpecker holes, natural tree hollows, rock crevices, and nooks in buildings and other human-built structures. The male searches for possible nest cavities. When he’s found suitable candidates, he shows them to the female, who makes the final choice. Typically, nest sites are in trees along wood edges or in the middle of open ground. American Kestrels take readily to nest boxes (see Backyard Tips).
American Kestrels do not use nesting materials. If the cavity floor is composed of loose material, the female hollows out a shallow depression there.
White to yellowish or light reddish-brown, mottled with violet-magenta, gray, or brown.
Condition at Hatching
Feeble, with sparse white down over pinkish skin; eyes partially open by first or second day.
American Kestrels eat mostly insects and other invertebrates, as well as small rodents and birds. Common foods include grasshoppers, cicadas, beetles, and dragonflies; scorpions and spiders; butterflies and moths; voles, mice, shrews, bats, and small songbirds. American Kestrels also sometimes eat small snakes, lizards, and frogs. And some people have reported seeing American Kestrels take larger prey, including red squirrels and Northern Flickers.
American Kestrels have a fairly limited set of calls, but the most common one is a loud, excited series of 3-6 klee! or killy! notes lasting just over a second. It’s distinctive and an excellent way to find these birds. You may also hear two other common calls: a long whine that can last 1–2 minutes, heard in birds that are courting or feeding fledglings, and a fast chitter, usually used by both sexes in friendly interactions.more sounds
The American Kestrel Partnership’s Kestrel Cams are not streaming on AllAboutBirds.org this year—you can follow them online at the Peregrine Fund’s site. Thanks for watching!
About the Kestrels
These American Kestrels are nesting in a nest box maintained by The Peregrine Fund at its international headquarters, the World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho.
About the Nest
The nest box is surrounded by sage-scrub habitat. This desert ecosystem supports a wealth of small rodents, reptiles, and insects. The short vegetation provides ideal habitat for the kestrels. At night, the interior camera uses infrared light to see in the dark. This light is invisible to the kestrels, as it is to humans.
In 2011 and 2012, kestrels in this nest box fledged five young.
The Peregrine Fund’s American Kestrel Partnership
The Peregrine Fund’s American Kestrel Partnership is a research and conservation project founded in response to kestrel declines in many areas of North America. The causes of these declines are unclear. The project is an ambitious, continentwide research network that enlists the efforts of both professional and citizen scientists. For this extraordinary raptor, every effort counts. Please visit the American Kestrel Partnership website to join the team!
The Peregrine Fund was founded in 1970 by Dr. Tom Cade at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, in response to the catastrophic decline of the Peregrine Falcon due to DDT-produced eggshell thinning. The Peregrine Fund pioneered captive propagation techniques and released more than 4,500 young peregrines into the wild—culminating in their removal from the Endangered Species List in 1999. During and since, The Peregrine Fund we has been engaged in conservation efforts on behalf of 102 species in 65 countries worldwide, including the California Condor, the Aplomado Falcon, and now the American Kestrel.