Driftless Prairies: Native Habitat Restoration

Nature inspires awe!

American Kestrel

Also became known as the “Sparrow Hawk” because it would eat House Sparrows in urban areas. The female incubates the eggs and the male feeds them. When he has food, he calls and the female flies from the nest to meet him.

Most falcons are bird hunters but kestrels are a bit different and prefer small rodents. This difference also accounts for why they look at act a bit differently than other falcons. One interesting behavior is called “kiting.” This is where they hover with their wing flapping in one spot. This is hunting behavior and once they see their prey, they can drop and attack easily.

In 2009, Hawk Watch International has sited a study stating that the kestrel is in decline. It was based on migration counts so the reason why is not fully known. They suspect it is because of one or more of the following factors:

  • poisoning by pesticides in agricultural areas
  • predation by increasing populations of Cooper’s Hawks (Accipiter cooperii)
  • development and reforestation of preferred habitats
  • potential exposure to the West Nile virus

If you have kestrels in your area and would like to participate in data collection, check out the American Kestrel Partnership