He who has no falcon

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He who has no falcon, must hunt with owls.

A Danish proverb

American Kestrel (a falcon)

American Kestrel (a falcon) - Have you seen one?

American Kestrel

The American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) is a small falcon. This bird was (and sometimes still is) colloquially known in North America as the “Sparrow Hawk”, which is a very misleading name. It is a diurnal raptor.

American Kestrels are widely distributed across the Americas. Their breeding range extends from central and western Alaska across northern Canada to Nova Scotia, and south throughout North America, into central Mexico, the Baja, and the Caribbean. They are local breeders in Central America and are widely distributed throughout South America.

Identification Tips:

• Length: 8.5 inches Wingspan: 21 inches
• Short, dark, hooked beak
• Small, long-tailed hawk
• Long, narrow, pointed wings
• Gray crown
• White cheeks
• Two black mustache marks
• Black spot at rear of crown on both sides
• Seen from below, flight feathers are pale with dark barring
• Juveniles and immature females like adult female

Adult male:
• Rust patch on crown
• Rust nape, breast, back and tail
• Rust tail has a broad black subterminal band and a narrow white terminal band
• Pale belly
• Blue-gray wing coverts
• Dark flight feathers with pale subterminal spots creating a “string of pearls”
• Black spots on scapulars, wing coverts and flanks

Adult female:
• Pale buff breast streaked with brown
• Rust-brown nape, back and wing coverts
• Back and wing coverts barred heavily with black
• Rust-brown tail with numerous dark bars of even width and a narrow white terminal band


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Similar species:

Sharp-shinned Hawk is of similar size, but has rounded wings and much different patterning. Merlin is larger with broader-based wings, lacks rust tones to back and wing coverts, has a single mustache mark and strongly checkered underwings.

The American Kestrel is the smallest falcon in North America – about the size of a large thrush, such as the American Robin, on average.



He who has no falcon, must hunt with owls.


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He who has no falcon, must hunt with owls.


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