Identification: This small, colorful falcon, 9-12 inches in length with a wingspread of 21-23 inches has a facial pattern that features two black stripes. The bird's wings are long and pointed. Female Kestrels have brown heads and wings, and tails striped with black and brown. Males have blue-gray heads and wings, and a russet-brown tail with a black tip. Other characteristics include occasional jerks or wags of the tail while perching, and hovering when searching for prey.
Range & Habitat: This species occurs in North and South America into the West Indies. Recent observations indicate a decline in the breeding population of central and south Florida, earning the Kestrel a classification of threatened. Kestrels can be found in towns and cities, parks, farmlands and open country. The species has adapted well to the presence of humans. Formerly known as the Sparrow Hawk, it is Florida's only nesting falcon species.
Reproduction: Kestrels nest in natural tree cavities, old woodpecker holes, and man-made nest boxes. Little or no lining is added to the cavity. Kestrels lay 3-5 white or pinkish eggs, blotched with brown, which are incubated for 29-31 days almost entirely by the female. The male feeds the female while she is on the nest. He will approach the nest with food, call to her, and she will fly to him and consume the food away from the nest. The male will continue to bring most of the food after the eggs hatch.
Diet: In the countryside, kestrels prey on insects, small birds and rodents, capturing their prey on the ground rather than in the air like other falcon species. In urban areas, the primary prey is House Sparrows.
Remarks: Habitat destruction and loss of nest-cavity trees are possible factors leading to the decline in the breeding population. Young kestrels stay with the adults for a time after fledging, and it is not uncommon to see family parties in late summer. They can be encouraged to nest with the installation of specially-designed nest boxes. Call The Avian Reconditioning Center to obtain a set of nest box plans.