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North Carolina Wildlife Species Information

American Kestrel Falcon -  Falco sparverius

American Kestrel Falcon Falco sparverius

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

Immature male:

  • Barred rust-brown back barred heavily with black
  • Streaked breast

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.

Length and wingspan from: Robbins, C.S., Bruun, B., Zim, H.S., (1966). Birds of North America. New York: Western Publishing Company, Inc.

Above information used courtesy of United States Geological Survey.  Photo by Fotolia - Discovery

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