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Hawks, Eagles, and Falcons of North Dakota

JPG -- Picture of Species

American Kestrel
Falco sparverius


The American kestrel, nick-named the "sparrow hawk", is the smallest and most common of the falcons found in North Dakota. It is identified by double black stripes running vertically on the white face as well as the rust colored back, tail, and small body size. It is often seen perched on utility poles and lines next to county roads or hovering in an open field searching for prey. The American kestrel can be seen throughout North Dakota from April until late September.

The kestrel preys chiefly on large insects such as grasshoppers during the summer. In winter, it will prey mainly on mice and small birds of sparrow size. Prey is often taken by a plunge from a hover or a perch. Kestrels rarely catch prey in the air. Due to the kestrel's tolerance of heat, it rarely needs to drink water, but instead obtains water from its carnivorous diet.

The American kestrel is a cavity nester and often nests in natural holes or crevices of a tree, a hole in a riverbank, or man-made nestboxes. The female will lay between 4 and 5 eggs and the nesting season runs from mid-April to June. The female does most of the incubation which lasts about 30 days and the young take to flight in roughly that same time.


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