Bird of the Week: American Kestrel

American Kestrel

Weighing in at about 4 ounces, the American Kestrel is our smallest falcon, as well as our most common. Kestrels’ small size represents a great advantage over larger raptors like buteos and eagles, allowing them to subsist on smaller prey like grasshoppers and butterflies when larger quarry isn’t available. A common sight in grasslands and woodland edges, American Kestrels are well-adapted to the wildland-urban interface as well; near human habitation, sports fields are a particular favorite. Kestrels also hunt from the sky when perches aren’t available, “hovering” at slow speeds over the ground, watchful for lizards, insects, or small mammals. Unlike humans, kestrels are able to see ultraviolet light, which makes the urine of mice and other small prey – invisible to us – a marker by which to find them. Kestrels are active in Central Texas year-round, but are especially common during the winter, when their striking plumage is a vivid contrast in the dormant landscape.

Compiled by Owen Moorhead. Sources include the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society. Image courtesy of Kelly Colgan Azar via Flickr Creative Commons.