Special Feature: Birds of Prey

American Kestrel

by Lucy Ji, age 13

Grand falcons and majestic eagles live and fly all over North America. They awe us with their power and grace. But there are other unique birds in Wisconsin that are not as well known, but just as interesting. One of them is the American kestrel.
The American kestrel is actually a falcon. Black spots dot their grey and copper wings and tan underside. Stripes of black line their white cheeks. Sharp, curved, black-tipped beaks make their gray heads look menacing. They are built to perfectly snatch up prey.
Standing at only eight inches tall, the American kestrel is fairly small for a raptor or a bird of prey. Despite their mean appearance, these birds will hunt and eat nothing more than small animals and insects. Typically, the kestrel will eat small mammals, grasshoppers, or small birds.
Kestrels are monogamous and the bond between each mating pair is very strong. They often nest in nest boxes provided by humans, or they find abandoned woodpecker holes.
The American kestrel is found all over southern Wisconsin. If you cannot find a hawk, see if you can spot this handsome bird.

[Sources: Encyclopedia of North American Animals; Southern Wisconsin Atlas and Field Guide]