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Living Sanibel: American Kestrel

By Staff | Oct 11, 2013
American Kestrel. Hung V Do.
American Kestrel. Sara Lopez.

The kestrel is the smallest member of the falcon family. It is a colorful bird of prey, with hints of blue, auburn, and white in the males. With 17 races spread across both continents, the kestrel has evolved a number of colorful variations in its plumage.

Although the American kestrel can be spotted in Florida year round, its numbers increase dramatically during the winter months. The kestrel readily adapts to human changes in the landscape and is as comfortable on a baseball field as it is in a woodland. As a result of its easy adaptation, it is thriving across North and South America. The smaller, indigenous Florida race is the only threatened subspecies.

The kestrel feeds primarily on insects and small vertebrates, including frogs and mice. It sometimes takes small birds in flight, but these are not its primary diet.

The kestrel has one unusual characteristic: after building its nest, it squirts feces on the cavity walls, allowing them to dry and reinforce the nest. With a collection of half-eaten animals lying on the bottom and walls covered in feces, its nest can become quite odiferous. Its primary threats are pesticides and a lack of suitable nesting sites. The kestrel readily takes to wooden bird boxes, and there is a push nationwide to increase these artificial nesting sites throughout the kestrel’s range.

-This article is an excerpt from Living Sanibel-A Nature Guide to Sanibel & Captiva Islands by Charles Sobczak. The book is available at all the Island bookstores, Baileys, Jerry’s and your favorite online sites.