Nature Watch: "American Kestrel"


Last updated 11/9/2023 at 12:18pm

American Kestrel

While more common to coastal and inland areas of San Diego, the American kestrel is a small, but colorful raptor found in Anza-Borrego.

Lacking oak woodlands or stands of sycamore trees, the kestrel nests in eroded alcoves of sandstone cliffs in the desert.

This year-round resident of our region is the smallest and most common falcon in North America, measuring about 10 inches in length with a wingspan of around 20 inches.

This is a beautifully colored bird, with males having blue-gray wings with reddish tail feathers and a single, broad black band neat the end. Females have wings and tails that are rufous in color with black bars and spots. Females are slightly larger than males.

This raptor hunts primarily in open areas covered with sparse or low vegetation. It will frequently perch while watching for prey, but will also hover in flight, facing into the wind while waiting for the opportunity to capture food.

The kestrel is agile and fast, and it has the ability to capture insects and small birds in flight.

The primary food choices for the kestrel include arthropods, such as scorpions, centipedes, grasshoppers, dragonflies, spiders and insects, along with small vertebrates, like frogs, toads, newts, mice, and lizards.

While male kestrels locate potential nesting sites, it's the female that makes the selection.

Nesting sites are typically cavities with clear access, not obstructed by vegetation.

Nests are simple, typically nothing more than a shallow depression or scooped out area in the loose material on the floor of the cavity. No nesting material is brought in during their spring nesting cycle which typically is in March and April.

While the kestrel population here is not migratory, bird numbers increase in winter months when migrants from colder climates arrive.

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