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American Kestrel

Falco sparverius

American Kestrel, male

American Kestrel
credit: Quinn Dombrowski/CCSA

American Kestrals are the smallest of our falcons and year-round residents across most of the United States. Those that breed in Canada and Alaska are believed to migrate long distances, crossing over the territories occupied by year-round residents. Many of these migrants spend the winter in parts of Mexico and Central America.

During migration, American Kestrals have a strong tendency to follow mountain ridges and coastlines and are counted in extremely high numbers at watch sites on both coasts and in the Southwest. In addition to the rather straightforward southerly movement of northern birds, kestrels from other parts of the United States demonstrate a variety of short-distance migrations to territories that often support large winter populations. Birds from higher elevations tend to move to open habitats (especially agricultural fields and pastures) at lower altitudes. Coastal areas that support small numbers of kestrals during the breeding season are occupied during winter by large numbers of migrants from inland locations. Also, there's a tendency for males and females to occupy different winter territories.

Read more about the American Kestrel.