Falco sparverius - Linnaeus, 1758
American Kestrel
Other English Common Names: American kestrel
Other Common Names: Quiriquiri
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Falco sparverius Linnaeus, 1758 (TSN 175622)
French Common Names: crécerelle d'Amérique
Spanish Common Names: Cernícalo Americano, Halconcito Colorado
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.101079
Element Code: ABNKD06020
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Birds - Raptors
Image 7620

© Larry Master

 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Aves Falconiformes Falconidae Falco
Genus Size: D - Medium to large genus (21+ species)
Check this box to expand all report sections:
Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 1998. Check-list of North American birds. Seventh edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C. [as modified by subsequent supplements and corrections published in The Auk]. Also available online: http://www.aou.org/.
Concept Reference Code: B98AOU01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Falco sparverius
Taxonomic Comments: See Olsen et al. (1989) for a study of relationships within the genus Falco based on electrophoretic patterns of feather proteins.
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 07Apr2016
Global Status Last Changed: 22Nov1996
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by inspection
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Nation: United States
National Status: N5B,N5N (05Jan1997)
Nation: Canada
National Status: N5B,N1N,N5M (13Jan2018)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Alabama (S3B,S5N), Alaska (S4B), Arizona (S5), Arkansas (S2B,S4N), California (SNR), Colorado (S5B), Connecticut (S3), Delaware (S3B,S5N), District of Columbia (S2B,S3N), Florida (SNRB,SNRN), Georgia (S3S4), Idaho (S4), Illinois (S4), Indiana (S4), Iowa (S5B,S5N), Kansas (S4B,S5N), Kentucky (S5B,S5N), Louisiana (S3S4B,S5N), Maine (S3N,S5B), Maryland (S5B,S4N), Massachusetts (S3), Michigan (S5), Minnesota (SNRB,SNRN), Mississippi (S3B,S4S5N), Missouri (SNRB,SNRN), Montana (S5B), Navajo Nation (S5), Nebraska (S5), Nevada (S4), New Hampshire (S3B), New Jersey (S3B,S3N), New Mexico (S5B,S5N), New York (S5B), North Carolina (S3B,S5N), North Dakota (SNRB,SNRN), Ohio (S5), Oklahoma (S4S5), Oregon (S5), Pennsylvania (S5B,S5N), Rhode Island (S4B), South Carolina (S4), South Dakota (S5B,S4N), Tennessee (S5), Texas (S4B), Utah (S4S5B,S4N), Vermont (S4), Virginia (S4), Washington (S4S5B,S4S5N), West Virginia (S5B,S5N), Wisconsin (S4B), Wyoming (S5B)
Canada Alberta (S5B), British Columbia (S4B), Labrador (S2B,SUM), Manitoba (S3S4B), New Brunswick (S4B,S4S5M), Newfoundland Island (S2B,SUM), Northwest Territories (S4S5B), Nova Scotia (S3B), Ontario (S4), Prince Edward Island (S4S5B), Quebec (S3), Saskatchewan (S5B,S5M,S1N), Yukon Territory (S2B)

Other Statuses

Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC): Candidate (Low) (26Jan2015)
IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species Protection Status (CITES): Appendix II

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent Comments: BREEDS: central Alaska and most of forested Canada south through most of North, Central, and South America and the West Indies (including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands) to Tierra del Fuego. NORTHERN WINTER: from northern U.S., and locally in southern Canada, southward (Godfrey 1966). In the U.S., most abundant in winter in the western and southern states (Root 1988). See Palmer (1988) for more detail.

Population Size Comments: Estimated number of breeding pairs in Canada in the early 1990s was 500,000+ (Kirk et al. 1995).

Short-term Trend Comments: In Costa Rica, has declined notably in recent years for unknown reasons (Stiles and Skutch 1989). May be decreasing in the northeastern U.S. (Bednarz et al. 1990). However, Titus and Fuller (1990) found no consistent trend in migration counts in northeastern North America, 1972-1987. Stable or increasing in Canada (Kirk et al. 1995).

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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Global Range: BREEDS: central Alaska and most of forested Canada south through most of North, Central, and South America and the West Indies (including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands) to Tierra del Fuego. NORTHERN WINTER: from northern U.S., and locally in southern Canada, southward (Godfrey 1966). In the U.S., most abundant in winter in the western and southern states (Root 1988). See Palmer (1988) for more detail.

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
NOTE: The maps for birds represent the breeding status by state and province. In some jurisdictions, the subnational statuses for common species have not been assessed and the status is shown as not-assessed (SNR). In some jurisdictions, the subnational status refers to the status as a non-breeder; these errors will be corrected in future versions of these maps. A species is not shown in a jurisdiction if it is not known to breed in the jurisdiction or if it occurs only accidentally or casually in the jurisdiction. Thus, the species may occur in a jurisdiction as a seasonal non-breeding resident or as a migratory transient but this will not be indicated on these maps. See other maps on this web site that depict the Western Hemisphere ranges of these species at all seasons of the year.
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AK, AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NN, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY
Canada AB, BC, LB, MB, NB, NF, NS, NT, ON, PE, QC, SK, YT

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted. For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at www.natureserve.org/conservation-tools/data-maps-tools.

Range Map Compilers: NatureServe 2005; NatureServe, 2002; NatureServe, 2005; NatureServe2005; WILDSPACETM 2002; WWF-US, 2000


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
CT Fairfield (09001), Hartford (09003), Litchfield (09005), New Haven (09009), Tolland (09013), Windham (09015)
FL Alachua (12001), Charlotte (12015), Citrus (12017), Clay (12019), Columbia (12023), Gilchrist (12041), Hamilton (12047), Hernando (12053), Highlands (12055), Lake (12069), Lee (12071), Levy (12075), Madison (12079), Marion (12083), Monroe (12087)*, Okaloosa (12091), Okeechobee (12093), Osceola (12097), Pasco (12101), Polk (12105), Putnam (12107), Sarasota (12115), Sumter (12119), Suwannee (12121), Volusia (12127), Walton (12131)
GA Long (13183), Tattnall (13267), Taylor (13269)
ID Ada (16001), Bannock (16005), Bingham (16011), Blaine (16013), Bonneville (16019), Butte (16023), Camas (16025), Cassia (16031), Clark (16033), Custer (16037), Franklin (16041), Gooding (16047), Idaho (16049), Latah (16057), Lemhi (16059), Lincoln (16063), Nez Perce (16069), Oneida (16071), Owyhee (16073)
MS Chickasaw (28017)*, Coahoma (28027)*, Franklin (28037)*, Grenada (28043), Hancock (28045)*, Harrison (28047), Hinds (28049)*, Holmes (28051)*, Humphreys (28053)*, Jackson (28059)*, Lafayette (28071)*, Leflore (28083)*, Montgomery (28097), Oktibbeha (28105)*, Pearl River (28109)*, Sunflower (28133)*, Tallahatchie (28135)*, Winston (28159), Yazoo (28163)*
NJ Atlantic (34001), Bergen (34003), Burlington (34005), Camden (34007), Cape May (34009), Cumberland (34011), Gloucester (34015), Hudson (34017), Hunterdon (34019), Mercer (34021), Middlesex (34023), Monmouth (34025), Morris (34027), Ocean (34029), Salem (34033), Somerset (34035), Sussex (34037), Warren (34041)
WY Sublette (56035)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
01 Lower Connecticut (01080205)+, Farmington (01080207)+, Quinebaug (01100001)+, Shetucket (01100002)+, Quinnipiac (01100004)+, Housatonic (01100005)+, Saugatuck (01100006)+
02 Rondout (02020007)+, Hackensack-Passaic (02030103)+, Sandy Hook-Staten Island (02030104)+, Raritan (02030105)+, Middle Delaware-Mongaup-Brodhead (02040104)+, Middle Delaware-Musconetcong (02040105)+, Crosswicks-Neshaminy (02040201)+, Lower Delaware (02040202)+, Cohansey-Maurice (02040206)+, Mullica-Toms (02040301)+, Great Egg Harbor (02040302)+
03 Altamaha (03070106)+, Upper St. Johns (03080101)+, Oklawaha (03080102)+, Lower St. Johns (03080103)+, Kissimmee (03090101)+, Western Okeechobee Inflow (03090103)+, Florida Bay-Florida Keys (03090203)+*, Big Cypress Swamp (03090204)+, Peace (03100101)+, Myakka (03100102)+, Charlotte Harbor (03100103)+, Crystal-Pithlachascotee (03100207)+, Withlacoochee (03100208)+, Waccasassa (03110101)+, withlacoochee (03110203)+, Lower Suwannee (03110205)+, Santa Fe (03110206)+, Upper Flint (03130005)+, Choctawhatchee Bay (03140102)+, Pensacola Bay (03140105)+, Tibbee (03160104)+*, Noxubee (03160108)+, Pascagoula (03170006)+*, Mississippi Coastal (03170009)+, Middle Pearl-Strong (03180002)+*, Lower Pearl. Mississippi (03180004)+*
08 Little Tallahatchie (08030201)+*, Tallahatchie (08030202)+*, Yalobusha (08030205)+, Upper Yazoo (08030206)+*, Big Sunflower (08030207)+*, Lower Yazoo (08030208)+*, Lower Big Black (08060202)+*, Homochitto (08060205)+*
14 Upper Green (14040101)+, New Fork (14040102)+
16 Middle Bear (16010202)+, Curlew Valley (16020309)+
17 Idaho Falls (17040201)+, Willow (17040205)+, Portneuf (17040208)+, Lake Walcott (17040209)+, Raft (17040210)+, Upper Snake-Rock (17040212)+, Beaver-Camas (17040214)+, Medicine Lodge (17040215)+, Birch (17040216)+, Little Lost (17040217)+, Big Lost (17040218)+, Big Wood (17040219)+, Camas (17040220)+, Little Wood (17040221)+, Upper Owyhee (17050104)+, Middle Owyhee (17050107)+, Boise-Mores (17050112)+, Lower Boise (17050114)+, Lower Snake-Asotin (17060103)+, Upper Salmon (17060201)+*, Pahsimeroi (17060202)+, Middle Salmon-Panther (17060203)+, Lemhi (17060204)+, Lower Salmon (17060209)+, Clearwater (17060306)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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General Description: Pointed wings, reddish back and tail, two black stripes on each side of white sides of head; male has blue-gray wings; averages 27 cm long, 58 cm in wingspan (NGS 1983).
Diagnostic Characteristics: Differs from peregrine falcon, merlin, and aplomado falcon in having a reddish back and tail and double black marks on sides of head; peregrine falcon is much larger. Smaller than the Eurasian kestrel (averages 34 cm long), which has only a single black mark on each side of the head.
Reproduction Comments: See Palmer (1988) for egg dates. Clutch size is 3-7 (usually 4-5). Incubation mainly by female, lasts usually 29-31 days. Two broods a year may be raised in some areas (e.g., central North America [Toland 1985], Chile). Young are tended by both parents, leave nest in about 29-31 days, may stay with parents for 2-4 weeks or more (no later than late summer in U.S.). Readily lays replacement clutch if first clutch is lost. Most first breed at 1 year. Monogamy through successive breeding seasons seems to prevail (Palmer 1988). Nesting density varies greatly throughout range, depending on nest-site availability and probably food supply; may tolerate close nesting by other pairs in some regions.
Ecology Comments: Average territory size was 109.4 ha and 129.6 ha in two western U.S. studies (Cade 1982); home range diameter during the breeding season ranged from about 0.5 to 2.4 km in different regions; see Palmer (1988) for further data.
Non-Migrant: Y
Locally Migrant: Y
Long Distance Migrant: Y
Mobility and Migration Comments: Northern breeding populations (Alaska, most of Canada, parts of northern U.S.) migrate south to the southern U.S. and Mexico for the northern winter, but breeding pairs farther south may stay together in the same area all year. Some temperate breeders migrate south as far as Panama and probably northern South America (Hilty and Brown 1986). In some areas (e.g., Pennsylvania and Maryland), breeders may be resident whereas the young migrate (Palmer 1988). Winterers begin leaving Florida in February (almost all are gone by April); in southern states east of Rockies there is much movement from at least early March into April, in northern states mainly mid-March to mid-April; on southern Canadian prairie most spring movement occurs in the last 3 weeks of April, continuing to mid-May (Palmer 1988). Migration in Costa Rica occurs mainly September-October and March-April (Stiles and Skutch 1989). Much movement of migrants in Canada and northern U.S. occurs in September, decreasing rapidly around mid-October; arrival in Florida begins in September, lasts well into October; arrives in southern Central America beginning in mid-October (Palmer 1988). In Minnesota and perhaps elsewhere in eastern and mid-western North America, the movement south peaks in September, coinciding with the migration of large dragonflies (specifically Green Darners, ANAX JUNIUS), which are preyed upon extensively by the migrating kestrels (Nicoletti 1996, Iron 1998).
Palustrine Habitat(s): Riparian
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Cliff, Cropland/hedgerow, Desert, Grassland/herbaceous, Old field, Savanna, Suburban/orchard, Woodland - Conifer, Woodland - Hardwood, Woodland - Mixed
Special Habitat Factors: Standing snag/hollow tree
Habitat Comments: BREEDING: Open or partly open habitat; prairies, deserts, wooded streams, burned forest, cultivated lands and farmland with scattered trees, open woodland, along roads, sometimes in cities.

Nests in natural holes in trees, abandoned woodpecker holes, holes in buildings or cliffs, abandoned magpie nests, and similar sites. Readily uses nest-boxes, which may dramatically increase density of nesting pairs in some areas (may use boxes put up for wood duck or goldeneye). In western Venezuela, nest cavities tend to face into prevailing winds (Balgooyen 1990). Rarely returns to breed in vicinity where reared, but breeders tend to return to their previous territories (Palmer 1988).

NON-BREEDING: Various open and semi-open habitats. In winter, males use less open habitats than do females (Smallwood 1987, Palmer 1988, Ardia and Bildstein 2001).

Adult Food Habits: Carnivore, Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Carnivore, Invertivore
Food Comments: In summer feeds on insects (e.g., grasshoppers and crickets) and small vertebrates (e.g., snakes, lizards, birds, mice, sometimes bats). In winter: in north, feeds mainly on birds and mice; arthropods in Florida (Smallwood 1987); large insects, anoles, and snakes in Costa Rica. During migration, at least in eastern North America, high counts coincide with the migration of Green Darners, ANAX JUNIUS. In September 1995 at Hawk Ridge, Minnesota, Nicoletti (1996) observed 28% of the passing kestrels feeding on Green Darners. Late in the day, 74% fed on darners. Nicoletti theorized that this food source was especially important for juveniles. Iron (1998) observed similar behavior in September 1997 on the north shore of Lake Ontario. Forages from perch or while in flight (e.g., hovering). See Palmer (1988) for extensive account of food and feeding.
Adult Phenology: Diurnal
Immature Phenology: Diurnal
Phenology Comments: Hunts most actively in the morning and late afternoon; rests during the middle of the day.
Length: 27 centimeters
Weight: 160 grams
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary
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Management Requirements: See Palmer (1988) for nest box design. See Varland and Loughlin (1993) for information on reproductive success of kestrels using nest boxes in several areas throughout North America (occupancy rate 25-73%, fledging success at least 90%).
Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Group Name: Hawks and Falcons

Use Class: Breeding
Subtype(s): Feeding Area, Nest Site
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Evidence of historical breeding, or current and likely recurring breeding, at a given location, minimally a reliable observation of one or more breeding pairs in appropriate habitat. Be cautious about creating EOs for observations that may represent single breeding events outside the normal breeding distribution.
Mapping Guidance: If nest site is separated from feeding area by more than 100 meters, map as separate polygons.
Separation Barriers: None.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 10 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 10 km
Separation Justification: Separation distance a compromise between usually relatively small home ranges and obvious mobility of these birds. Home ranges variable, ranging from about 0.5 to about 90 square kilometers; the latter figure refers to nests where birds commuted some distance to feeding grounds. A number of studies give mean home ranges on the order of 7 square kilometers, which equates to a circle with a diameter of about 3 kilometers; three times that home range gives a separation distance of about 10 kilometers. Home ranges: Ferruginous Hawk, mean 5.9 square kilometers in Utah (Smith and Murphy 1973); range 2.4 to 21.7 square kilometers, mean 7.0 square kilometers in Idaho (Olendorff 1993); mean 7.6 square kilometers in Idaho (McAnnis 1990); mean 90 square kilometers in Washington (Leary et al. 1998); Red-tailed Hawk, most forage within 3 kilometers of nest (Kochert 1986); mean spring and summer male home ranges 148 hectares (Petersen 1979); Hawaiian Hawk, 48 to 608 hectares (n = 16; Clarkson and Laniawe 2000); Zone-tailed Hawk, little information, apparent home range 1-2 kilometers/pair in west Texas (Johnson et al. 2000); White tailed Kite, rarely hunts more than 0.8 kilometers from nest (Hawbecker 1942); Prairie Falcon, 26 square kilometers in Wyoming (Craighead and Craighead 1956), 59 to 314 square kilometers (reported by Steenhof 1998); Aplomado Falcon, 2.6 to 9.0 square kilometers (n = 5, Hector 1988), 3.3 to 21.4 square kilometers (n = 10, Montoya et al. 1997). Nest site fidelity: high in Zone-tailed Hawk; all seven west Texas nesting territories occupied in 1975 were reused in 1976 (Matteson and Riley 1981). Swainson's Hawk: In California, dispersal distances from natal sites to subsequent breeding sites ranged from 0 to 18 kilometers, mean 8.8 kilometers (Woodbridge et al. 1995); in contrast, none of 697 nestlings in Saskatchewan returned to the study area; three were found 190, 200 and 310 kilometers away (Houston and Schmutz 1995).
Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): 3 km
Inferred Minimum Extent Justification: Foraging range variable; 3 kilometers is the mean diameter in several species.
Date: 13Mar2001
Author: Cannings, S.

Use Class: Nonbreeding
Subtype(s): Foraging area, Roosting area
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Evidence of recurring presence of wintering birds (including historical); and potential recurring presence at a given location, usually minimally a reliable observation of 5 birds (this can be reduced to 1 individual for rarer species). Occurrences should be locations where the species is resident for some time during the appropriate season; it is preferable to have observations documenting presence over at least 20 days annually. Be cautious about creating EOs for observations that may represent single events.
Separation Barriers: None.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 10 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 10 km
Separation Justification: Separation distance somewhat arbitrary; set at 10 kilometers to define occurrences of managable size for conservation purposes. However, occurrences defined primarily on the basis of areas supporting concentrations of foraging birds, rather than on the basis of distinct populations.
Date: 15Apr2002
Author: Cannings, S.
Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 30Mar1995
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): HAMMERSON, G., MINOR REVISIONS BY S. CANNINGS

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
Help
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  • Aquin, P. 1999. Évaluation de la situation des groupes taxonomiques des oiseaux du Québec. Ministère de l'Environnement et de la Faune. 13 pages.

  • Ardia, D. R., and K. L. Bildstein. 2001. Sex-related differences in habitat use in wintering American Kestrels. Auk 118:746-750.

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