American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)

The American kestrel is the smallest falcon found in Illinois. It is commonly seen in all seasons, often hunting from fence posts and telephone lines along roadways. Interstate travelers often see them hovering in place over grassy medians.

The spectacular aerial display of a kestrel in pursuit of a dragonfly is a sight to behold.

Sexes are different in color. The male, (right) has slate blue-gray wings and less streaking on its chest. The female (below) is heavily streaked with reddish brown wings.

American kestrels appear to have eyes in the backs of their heads! These eyespots probably fool predators into thinking that the kestrel will be too difficult to catch and eat because it has already seen its attacker.

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Quick Facts about American kestrels:

American kestrels eat a variety of insects, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles.


A cavity in a tree or other structure is preferred. They often nest in old flicker holes, although they will use nest boxes. They usually lay three to five eggs.


A common falcon, easy to see with a little effort. Remember, kestrels eat birds, so you won't see them perching with other types of birds.