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
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.