American Kestrel
Cernícalo Chitero
(Falcon sparverius)

American Kestrel, Falcon sparverius: The American Kestrel is a common bird that is a small wide-ranging falcon and a member of the Falconidae Family.

They are normally found in close proximity to open fields, perched in a tree or on telephone wires, or hovering in search of prey.

They have typical falcon shaped wings that are slim and pointed; the tail is long and square-tipped.

Sexes are similar sized and easily differentiated.

The adult male has a gray crowned head, rufous nape with black spot on either side; the back is bright rufous with black barring on the lower parts; the tail is patterned with highly variable amounts of black, white or gray bands; the wings are blue-gray with dark primaries and the underparts are white washed with cinnamon.

The adult females have similar patterns to the male but with more brown on the crown, reddish brown with dark barring on the back, wings and tails and a subterminal tailband that is much wider than other bands; they have underparts that are buffy-white with reddish streaks.

The juveniles are similar in appearance to the adults but less colorful.

The American Kestrel range in size from 9 to 12 inches, have wing spans of 20 to 25 inches and weigh between 100 and 120 grams.

They range throughout North American from Alaska to mainland Mexico and are a year-round resident of Baja. Overall, the species is considered to be a migratory bird with fall migrations into the southern United States and northern Mexico although several do not migrate northward.

They consume insects, small mammals and reptiles, and do not require water for survival, living off the water provided by their prey. They build nests, well above the ground, in the cavities of dead trees, under cliffs or in the giant cacti of the southwest (the cardóns of Baja and the saguaros of Arizona) without additional nesting materials. The females lay an average of 3 to 7 one-and-a-half-inch white to cream or pale pink eggs heavily blotched with browns that are incubated for 29 to 31 days. The chicks are born helpless, with a sparse amount of white down and fed by the females. They have one brood per year.

Their call is a distinctive loud killy-killy-killy or klee-klee-klee.

The American Kestrel is not easily confused with any other bird species due to two bold dark moustache marks framing white cheeks on the face with dark eyes. They are considered to be of “Least Concern” with stable populations with increases in the central U.S. being offset by declines in the Northeast and West Coast.

 American Kestrel, Falcon sparverius: Male. A year-round resident of the greater Los Cabos area, Baja California Sur, Mexico. Photo courtesy of Carol Snow, taken March 2011. Description courtesy of John Snow.