American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)
Other names: Sparrow Hawk, Killy Hawk
Description: Small; russet back and tail, two black facial stripes
Habitat: Xeric scrub; dry prairies; mixed pine and hardwood forests; urban environments; pine flatwoods; sandhills; agricultural environments
Range: statewide

The American Kestrel is our smallest and most colorful falcon, typically about the size of a robin. Florida is inhabited by a smaller race (F. s. paulus), which has been threatened by loss of cavity trees and reduced habitat availability. The threatened status refers to this race. Both sexes and immatures exhibit vertical black streaks behind and in front of the eye. Males have slate-blue crowns and wing coverts, rusty tail with black terminal band, and rufous back. Undersides exhibit black spots on a buff background. Females are browner overall with more heavily marked back, tail, and undersides. Immatures resemble adults with more streaking below. Kestrels are found throughout Florida, usually nesting in abandoned woodpecker holes excavated in pine trees. A helpful tool for wildlife managers is the artificial nest box that these birds readily use. During spring (March to June) the female incubates three to five eggs while the male hunts and feeds his mate. Insects make up the bulk of the diet, although small mammals and reptiles are frequently taken Florida experiences a large influx of northern American Kestrels during winter. Some have been known to winter in the Dry Tortugas (one of few land birds to do so). Like the Florida race, these birds often space themselves along telephone wires while hunting, but are distinguished by their larger size.

Learn more »