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American Kestrels

Location: Wisconsin

Camera Host: Raptor Resource Project

June 13, 2019

Female Kestrel Chick Stretches Wings With Rapid Flapping

One of the female chicks steps away from her huddling siblings for a session of rapid wing flapping. At over three weeks post-hatch, the kestrel nestlings' juvenile plumage has filled in as they begin to preparations for fledging over the next few days. 

June 12, 2019

American Kestrel Chicks Gather Round For A Meal

The American Kestrel nestlings create a frenzy during a mid-day meal in the nest box.  

June 10, 2019

Male Kestrel Chick Gets Flappy In The Nest Box

With about a week to go until fledging, the American Kestrels are starting to stretch their wings in the nest box. Newly erupted juvenile feathers indicate that this year's clutch has two males and two females! Look closely at the wings and back. Male kestrels are rusty above with slate blue wings, and females are rusty colored with barring across the wings and back. 

June 13, 2019

Female Kestrel Chick Stretches Wings With Rapid Flapping

One of the female chicks steps away from her huddling siblings for a session of rapid wing flapping. At over three weeks post-hatch, the kestrel nestlings' juvenile plumage has filled in as they begin to preparations for fledging over the next few days. 

June 12, 2019

American Kestrel Chicks Gather Round For A Meal

The American Kestrel nestlings create a frenzy during a mid-day meal in the nest box.  

June 10, 2019

Male Kestrel Chick Gets Flappy In The Nest Box

With about a week to go until fledging, the American Kestrels are starting to stretch their wings in the nest box. Newly erupted juvenile feathers indicate that this year's clutch has two males and two females! Look closely at the wings and back. Male kestrels are rusty above with slate blue wings, and females are rusty colored with barring across the wings and back. 

May 31

Youngest Kestrel Chick Dies

We're sad to report that despite the best efforts of the kestrel parents, the youngest chick has died, likely due to being outcompeted for food by its siblings. The youngest kestrel hatched almost 2 days after the next youngest sibling, and never quite caught up. With the additional stress of the black fly outbreak in Wisconsin, it appeared to die sometime during the afternoon on Friday, May 31. It's not uncommon in American Kestrel nests for the last-hatched chick to fail to thrive, apparently unable to compete for food with larger siblings. The following morning the deceased chick was removed to lower the likelihood of black flies being attracted to the body and the remaining 4 chicks. 

May 23

Egg #5 Hatches On Wisconsin Kestrel Cam!

Enjoy these highlights as the fifth and final American Kestrel chick hatches from its egg! Watch the female assist her hatchling out of the egg before she nibbles down some eggshell. Moments later, the fifth chick is already begging for its first meal! More...

May 22

Four American Kestrel Chicks Hatch!

The parents on the Wisconsin Kestrel cam have their talons full now that four of their five eggs have hatched! On day 33 of incubation, the first chick was revealed at around 4:40 PM nest time on May 21 before a second chick hatched later in the evening. On the morning of May 22, the adults welcomed two more hungry hatchlings fresh out of the shell. Thanks to our partners at the Raptor Resource Project for helping to share this look inside the lives of North America's littlest falcon! 

Nest Placement

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).

Nest Description

American Kestrels do not use nesting materials. If the cavity floor is composed of loose material, the female hollows out a shallow depression there.

Clutch Size

4-5 eggs

Incubation Period

26-32 days

Nestling Period

28-28 days

Egg Description

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.

Food

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.

Typical Voice

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

See full Species Info at All About Birds

About the Kestrels

In general, the kestrels return to their box in February or March. Egg-laying begins in April or May, and eggs hatch roughly 26 to 32 days after they are laid. The young fledge between 28 and 31 days of age. Like peregrine falcons and bald eagles, American kestrel fledglings remain near the nest before dispersing in late summer. They eat invertebrates, small rodents, and birds including grasshoppers, cicadas, beetles, dragonflies, spiders, butterflies and moths, voles, mice, shrews, small songbirds, small snakes, lizards, and frogs. Learn more about American Kestrels in our species guide.

About the Site

The kestrels are nesting on private property near Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin. Their nest box, located on the side of a traditional limestone-footed barn, overlooks a rolling grassland that slopes away into the folded hills and forests of the driftless. A nearby stream cuts through deeply incised limestone to join the Mississippi river roughly four miles west of the nest. This wonderful combination of grassland, forest, and water has supported kestrels for over 25 years, and is an excellent example of the habitat that kestrels need to survive and thrive.

About the Host

Founded in 1988 by the late Bob Anderson, the non-profit Raptor Resource Project specializes in the preservation of falcons, eagles, ospreys, hawks, and owls. They create, improve, and directly maintain over 50 nests and nest sites, provide training in nest site creation and management, and develop innovations in nest site management and viewing that bring people closer to the natural world. Their mission is to preserve and strengthen raptor populations, expand participation in raptor preservation, and help foster the next generation of preservationists.