The American Kestrel is North America’s smallest falcon. They tend to live in areas with low vegetation and a few isolated perches, often perching on wires or poles. Kestrels are one of the most colorful of all raptors and their plumage distinguishes males from females. A male kestrel has slate blue wing contrasting with its rust red back and tail. Females lack this slate blue and have a barred rusty red wing, black, and tail. People often are amazed to see them hovering in the air waiting for a mouse to make a wrong move. They feed mostly on large insects, but also eat small rodents, bats, lizards, and small snakes. They even hunt small bits and scorpions in areas when food is scarce.
Kestrels nest in cavities such as woodpecker holes. The same nest site may be used in successive years. They will lay 4-6 white eggs with brown spots. The male does most of the hunting and provides food for the incubating female and nestlings.
In recent years, researches have become alarmed by the decline in the kestrel population. Causes of the decline are largely unknown, however, they may include land use, climate change, depredation by Cooper’s Hawks and other birds of prey, competition with for nesting cavities, and environmental contaminants.
The American Kestrel Partnership was formed in 2011 in order to research the kestrel population and coordinate managed nestbox programs. RAPTOR recently joined the program and set up kestrel nestboxes in our area. Volunteer Jake Sberna has built 8 nestboxes to date. One has been installed in the lower property field of RAPTOR Inc. Three have been installed at the Cincinnati Nature Center – Rowe Woods; they can be seen at the Bone Yard, Redwing Trail and Lookout Trail. Nestboxes will also be installed at Long Branch Farm and at a private farm in Batavia. Volunteers will monitor these boxes during breeding season, recording the number of adults nearby, the number of eggs and nestlings, and if other species are using the box. This data will be sent to the American Kestrel Partnership. RAPTOR is excited to be a part of this important conservation initiative. We hope to have active nestboxes in the near future. Stay tuned! Learn more about the American Kestrel Partnership by clicking here.