American Kestrels

Location: Wisconsin

Camera Host: Raptor Resource Project

Kestrel Cam is now Offline

After a successful season at the cam site, the young kestrels have been dispersing away from the barn and out into the sea of surrounding habitat. Thanks to everyone who tweeted out their sightings, watched, or shared the kestrels’ journey. We hope to be back next year with our excellent partners at the Raptor Resource Project with more kestrel goodness.

July 26, 2018

Kestrel Cam Goes Offline for Season

After an overwhelmingly successful breeding season, the American Kestrel fledglings have finally dispersed from their nesting grounds, and the cam has been turned offline for the season. A special thanks to our partners at the Raptor Resource Project and everyone who watched and shared their insights throughout the kestrels' journey. We hope to be back next year with another look inside the breeding season of North America's smallest falcon!  

July 20, 2018

Kestrel Fledglings Still Learning The Ropes

Nearly one week after fledging, the American Kestrel fledglings are still learning what life is like outside the nest box. As the weeks pass by, the young birds will spend less time preening and resting as they increase their time flying, hunting, and capturing prey.  

July 17, 2018

Prey Drop On American Kestrels' Favorite Perch

Watch some of the recent American Kestrel fledglings perch together on a branch while one of the adults arrive with a prey drop. Fledglings will continue to rely on their parents for food for another 12–14 days after leaving the nest.  

July 26, 2018

Kestrel Cam Goes Offline for Season

After an overwhelmingly successful breeding season, the American Kestrel fledglings have finally dispersed from their nesting grounds, and the cam has been turned offline for the season. A special thanks to our partners at the Raptor Resource Project and everyone who watched and shared their insights throughout the kestrels' journey. We hope to be back next year with another look inside the breeding season of North America's smallest falcon!  

July 20, 2018

Kestrel Fledglings Still Learning The Ropes

Nearly one week after fledging, the American Kestrel fledglings are still learning what life is like outside the nest box. As the weeks pass by, the young birds will spend less time preening and resting as they increase their time flying, hunting, and capturing prey.  

July 17, 2018

Prey Drop On American Kestrels' Favorite Perch

Watch some of the recent American Kestrel fledglings perch together on a branch while one of the adults arrive with a prey drop. Fledglings will continue to rely on their parents for food for another 12–14 days after leaving the nest.  

July 14

Last Kestrel Chick Takes Flight From The Nesting Box!

Nearly five hours after its sibling left the box at 6:05 AM, the final American Kestrel chick took wing at 11:44 AM and joined its siblings in the wild world outside of the nesting box! All four chicks have now fledged, and the nesting box is empty. The age of the chicks at fledging ranged from 26–29 days post-hatch. Thanks to our partners at the Raptor Resource Project and to everyone for watching and learning along with us as these tiny falcons grew from fluffballs to fledglings. Good luck out there little ones!  More...

July 14

American Kestrel Chick Fledges!

One of the American Kestrel chicks fledged first thing this morning! Watch one of the younger male chicks take his first flight at 6:05 AM on July 14. At least one male chick remains in the nest after two chicks likely fledged sometime on July 13. More...

July 10

Juvenile Plumage Reveals One Female Kestrel Chick, Three Males

Now that the American Kestrel chicks are well on their way to developing their juvenile feathers, it's easy to see which is a female and which is a male (American Kestrels are sexually dimorphic in their plumage, even as juveniles). Check out the birds' wings for a quick clue about who's who. Males have slate-blue wings with a rusty back; females’ wings are reddish brown overall on their back and wings. From the looks of it, the eldest chick (with the most fully developed plumage) is a female, and the youngest three chicks are males! More...

American Kestrel

Cavity

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

28-31 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.

Insects

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.