The American Kestrel can be found in the Raptor Roost located out in our Boatyard.

The American Kestrel can be found in the Mississippi River watershed. Raptors play a key role in natural pest control as their diet consists of rodents and insects. As predators, they are at risk of bioaccumulation of toxins from rodenticides and insecticides. Humans can reduce this risk by using less of these substances.

American Kestrels are also cavity nesters. They nest in old trees or nest boxes versus building their own nests. Through a citizen science project called the American Kestrel Partnership, private citizens can help report on the nesting activity of these raptors.

Fast Facts:

  • Also known as: Sparrow Hawk
  • Diet: Carnivore
  • Life span: In the wild – 5 years, in captivity – up to 15 years
  • Size: Wingspan of 20 to 24 inches
  • Weight: Average of 4 to 6 ounces (100-140 grams)
  • Group Name: flight, hover, tower
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern, declining


  • Small raptor with a long tail and pointed wings
  • Overall body is rusty brown with a black band near the tip of the tail
  • Males have slate blue markings on their wings and cap as well as black spots on their body
  • Females have red-brown wings and cap


  • Rodents
  • Songbirds
  • Insects/large bugs (dragonflies)
  • Small reptiles

Main Predators:

  • Raptors (hawks, owls)
  • Snakes
  • Raccoons


  • Nest in cavities of old  trees or nest boxes
  • Average clutch size is 4-5 eggs. Most pairs only have 1 clutch per year. 
  • Incubation is about 1 month. Both parents take turns incubating. 
  • Once hatching occurs, the female stays with chicks while the male brings food in for the entire family. 
  • Chicks reach adult weight at 2 weeks old. Fledging occurs at approximately 4 weeks of age. 
  • Most offspring will not survive to age 1 due to predation, injuries, lack of hunting success, etc. This is common among birds. 
  • Are able to start breeding at age 1 


  • Often seen on powerlines of fence posts bobbing their heads and tails while hunting
  • Are able to hover in one spot to zone in on prey items
  • Will catch prey such as songbirds or insects mid-flight using their feet
  • Vocalization is similar to all falcon species “Klee-klee-klee”

Did You Know? 

  • The American Kestrel is North America’s smallest falcon.
  • You can easily tell the male and female apart by feather coloration on the wing and cap, which is rare in raptors.
  • The American Kestrel is a migratory species, however, some males choose to overwinter in Iowa to be able to claim the best nesting grounds come spring.