American Kestrel

Falco sparverius

NH Conservation Status: Not listed

Federal Status: Not listed; American kestrels are legally protected in New Hampshire. Possession and take (which includes harming, harassing, injuring and killing) is illegal.

Distribution: Breeds throughout NH, although numbers are declining. Begins to arrive in April and may be seen during fall migration which peaks between September 1 and October 31.

Description: 9-12” from head to tail with a 20-24” wingspan. About the size of a blue jay. Both males and females have a rufous back and tail and black and white face pattern. Males have blue-gray head and wings.

Voice: A shrill, “killy-killy-killy”

Commonly Confused Species: Merlin and Peregrine falcons both have similar blue-gray colored wings but American kestrels are the smallest and most common.

Habitat: Open habitats such as fields, meadows, pastures and parks with sparse trees or power lines to perch on.

Nesting: Nests April - June in pre-existing holes such as tree cavities, woodpecker holes or nesting boxes. American kestrels typically lay 4-5 eggs which hatch after about 30days of incubation. Chicks are born with white down, open their eyes a day or two after hatching, and stay in the nest for the first 28-31 days of life.

Diet: Primarily insects, especially grasshoppers and crickets, and will prey on small birds, mice, reptiles and amphibians.