American kestrels are the smallest falcons in North America, usually weighing about 3-6 ounces, with a wingspan under two feet. They are often preyed upon by larger birds, including red-tailed hawks and crows.
American Kestrels in this ecosystem
Kestrels are the most common falcons in our ecosystem, spotted much more often than peregrine falcons or prairie falcons.
American kestrels are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, though the greater Yellowstone ecosystem is year-round territory for them.
In the wild, kestrels eat mostly small prey that they catch on the ground, like mice, voles, grasshoppers and lizards. They also catch small birds and bats on the wing.
At the Sanctuary, we feed a variety of appropriate small animals.
BEHAVIOR & Lifespan
Kestrels often hunt by perching above a field and swooping down on their prey. They are also the only bird of prey capable of hovering. Because of their size, they have difficulty hovering on one place in still air, but with even a slight breeze, they can “wind-hover” facing into the wind and keeping their heads virtually motionless, which helps with spotting prey.
In the wild, kestrels have a life expectancy of around five years; in captivity they can live over 17 years.