My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

American Kestrel, Falco sparverius

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

American Kestrel, Falco sparverius

The American Kestrel , sometimes colloquially known as the Sparrow Hawk, is a small falcon, and the only kestrel found in the Americas. It is the most common falcon in North America, and is found in a wide variety of habitats. At 19–21 centimeters (7–8 in) long, it is also the smallest falcon in North America. It exhibits sexual dimorphism in size and plumage, although both sexes have a rufous back with noticeable barring. Juveniles are similar in plumage to adults.

American Kestrels feed largely on small animals such as grasshoppers, dragonflies, lizards, mice, and voles. They will occasionally eat other small birds. The kestrel has also been reported to have killed larger animals such as snakes, bats, and squirrels. The kestrel maintains high population densities, in part because of the broad scope of its diet. The American Kestrel’s primary mode of hunting is by perching and waiting for prey to come near. The bird is characteristically seen along roadsides or fields perched on objects such as trees, overhead power lines, or fence posts. It also hunts by hovering in the air with rapid wing beats and scanning the ground for prey. Other hunting techniques include low flight over fields, or chasing insects in the air.

Its breeding range extends from central and western Alaska across northern Canada to Nova Scotia, and south throughout North America, into central Mexico and the Caribbean. It is a local breeder in Central America and is widely distributed throughout South America. Most birds breeding in Canada and the northern United States migrate south in the winter. It is an occasional vagrant to western Europe.

On to my photos, and since all the photos of kestrels that I have managed so far all look the same, I’m only posting three for right now:

Update! During my vacation to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in the fall of 2013, I managed a few good shots of a kestrel which I am adding to the end of this post.

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

American Kestrel in flight

American Kestrel in flight

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

American Kestrel


This is number 57 in my photo life list, only 293 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!



12 responses

  1. I love these little guys.

    March 16, 2013 at 2:50 am

    • Me too, it’s a good sign that they are showing up around here a lot more often.

      March 16, 2013 at 9:08 am

  2. Sounds like you’re lucky to have seen this one at all.

    March 16, 2013 at 8:14 am

    • I’m lucky that I live in Michigan where so many birds are making huge comebacks.

      March 16, 2013 at 9:07 am

  3. plantsamazeme

    The American Kestrel is one of the most colorful of all raptors. I have seen many more in the last few years, usually perched on wires or poles.
    You are making fast progress on your Photo Life List!

    March 16, 2013 at 9:42 am

    • Thank you, my progress will slow down a lot soon, I hope to get to 88 species posted, as that will be 1/4 of my list done.
      The kestrels are showing up more often, and in more places, usually perched on wires or poles as you say, makes me wonder what they did before power lines were strung up all over. 😉

      March 16, 2013 at 10:06 am

  4. Kestrels are awesome ! I saw my first one just this last month and could have watched him for hours. Thanks for sharing this one Jerry.

    March 16, 2013 at 7:30 pm

    • Thank you! I need to find a way to get closer to them though.

      March 16, 2013 at 7:54 pm

  5. Very nice! Perhaps I told you that my daughter is recording all the species she sees this year? I admire your love of nature.

    March 17, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    • Thanks, and yes, you mentioned what your daughter was doing. On ebirds, I saw that there’s now an app for competitive birding, as if we have to turn everything into a competition.

      March 17, 2013 at 7:24 pm

  6. We have an American Kestrel that regularly hunts our fields. We’re going to put up a kestrel bird house that my husband made and hope that it finds a mate and nests where we can watch the activity.

    March 17, 2013 at 7:53 pm

    • Excellent idea! Thanks for the comment, and I hope that others may also take heed of what you’re doing.

      March 17, 2013 at 8:00 pm