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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AGFC) - At roughly the size of a Mourning Dove, the American Kestrel is North America's smallest falcon. This species packs a predator's fierce intensity into its small body. It's one of the most colorful of all raptors: the male's slate-blue head and wings contrast elegantly with his rusty-red back and tail; the female has the same warm reddish on her wings, back, and tail. Hunting for insects and other small prey in open territory, kestrels perch on wires or poles, or hover facing into the wind, flapping and adjusting their long tails to stay in place. Kestrels are declining in parts of their range; Arkansans can help them by putting up nest boxes.

Kestrels can be found in Arkansas year-round and are listed as common in winter. In summer, they are listed as uncommon in the state, but can still be found here in decent numbers. They do nest in Arkansas, and they are cavity nesters. American Kestrels favor open areas with short ground vegetation and sparse trees. You'll find them in meadows, grasslands, deserts, parks, farm fields, cities, and suburbs. They eat mostly insects and other invertebrates, as well as small rodents and birds. They normally hunt by day. You may see a kestrel scanning for prey from the same perch all day long-or changing perches every few minutes. A kestrel pounces on its prey, seizing it with one or both feet; the bird may finish off a small meal right there on the ground, or carry larger prey back to a perch.

Backyard Tips:

American Kestrels take well to artificial nest boxes. To attract a breeding pair, the box should be put up by early February. Nail it to a tree 10 to 30 feet above the ground away from traffic and loud human activity. Attach a guard to keep predators from raiding eggs and young. Find out more about nest boxes on the Cornell Lab or Ornithology website www.allaboutbirds.org. You'll find plans for building a nest box of the appropriate size at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Project Nestwatch site (www.nestwatch.org).

Find This Bird:

Scan fence posts, utility lines and telephone poles, particularly when driving through farmland. Or view them by the hundreds at coastal migration sites-such as Cape May, New Jersey, or Kiptopeke, Virginia-in September or early October. Particularly in summer, listen for their shrill killy-killy-killy call to be alerted to when they're around.

(Source: Arkansas Game and Fish Commission)