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  Order: Falconiformes
Family: Falconidae

Description: L 10 1/2"(27 cm) W 23"(58 cm). They have a small, rufous crown, back, and tail, slate blue wings, buff-colored breast, black spotting on belly, and double black stripes on a white face. Female has similar head pattern, but back and wings are brown. Female has heavier streaking.

Habitat: Often perches on elevated sites such as telephone poles and trees in open country. They nest in old woodpecker holes or nest boxes near grasslands or croplands.

Status/Range: American Kestrels are found throughout most of North America. They are a common permanent resident of Nebraska. Some individuals migrate, as kestrels are less common in winter than in spring or fall. Kestrels are regular breeders in Nebraska.

Call: Very vocal, with loud rapid killy-killy-killy. (American Kestrel call)

Comments: Sometimes called "Sparrow Hawk." Kestrels are the smallest and most common of North America's falcons. They will readily use nest boxes like the one we provided. The nesting cycle varies slightly but here is a general timeline.

  • Egg laying begins in early to mid-April.
  • Egg laying interval is 1 egg every 2-3 days.
  • 3-5 eggs are laid and are creamy white with fine reddish brown speckles.
  • Incubation of 29-30 days is done mostly by the female.
  • Hatching takes 2-3 days and the shells may be discarded or eaten by the parents.
  • The male brings all of the food for the first 7-10 days while the female stays. with the chicks.
  • Young will remain in the box for 30 days.
  • Peak feeding times are generally 9 a.m. to noon and 4 to 5 p.m.

Interesting facts and figures for American Kestrels:

  Male Female
Weight 2.5-5 oz 3-5.8 oz
Length 9-11 in 9-12 in
Wingspan 20-22 in 22-24 in

  • Prey items include: mice, voles, grasshoppers, bats, spiders, snakes, and small birds
  • Store food in trees and cavities for later use
  • Kestrels can see ultra violet light and may be able to find hidden mammals by seeing their urine trails.
  • Can live up to 11 years in the wild
  • Can reach 60 mph while diving and 40 mph in level flight

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Nebraska Game and Parks Commission - 2200 N. 33rd St. Lincoln, NE 68503 - 402-471-0641

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