AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius)
The American kestrel is the smallest bird of prey in North America at around 30 cm (12 in.) in length, but it is not the least colorful. It’s head and wings are blue while the back and tail are reddish-brown, and the underside is white with black vertical stripes. The bird also has a black vertical stripe on each side of their face which look like sideburns. The American kestrel is part of the falcon family and as such can be successfully trained in falconry.
NAME: The Latin genus name ‘Falco’ means ‘sickle’, in reference to the curved shape of this bird’s bill and talons.
This predatory bird hunts small rodents, reptiles and birds (including around feeders), as well as insects and invertebrates. This diversified diet helps it maintain its population. There are different types of hunt used by the American kestrel – one is that of ambushing its prey by staying perched on top of a vantage point and pouncing on the prey. Another method is hovering in the air and diving down vertically on the prey. They will also catch insects on the fly. Since birds can see untraviolet light, this allows the American kestrel to follow the urine path of meadow voles, a favorite target.
The American kestrel breeds on the island and is fairly common. It migrates south for the winter, as far as the Caribbean depending on the location of the summer areas. There is a bird cam project going on in PEI for the American kestrel, which can be followed here, with associated conservation activities.
Another source of information on the American kestrel can be found here.