Photos and Article by Charly Mann
The American Kestrel is the most colorful bird in Oklahoma during the winter months. They are a raptor, like a hawk, and are part of the falcon family because of their sharp hooked bill. On a recent driving trip from northeast Oklahoma to the Panhandle, the American Kestrel was a fairly frequent sight on tall poles near farmland and savanna areas.
An American Kestrel enjoying the view about 8 miles west of Guymon, Oklahoma
The American Kestrel is almost the same size as an American Robin. They are usually about 11 inches long and have a two foot wingspan. They only weigh about 3 1/2 ounces. Female kestrels are a little larger than males. The most distinguishing features of the American Kestrel are the black stripes on their faces and their slate colored blue wings. Males are brighter and more colorful than females. The male kestrel has blue on its wings, while the female's wing is more brown. The male also has a spotted chest, while the female's is streaked.
American Kestrels can fly as fast as 40 mph. They also are usually monogamous and mate for life.They are the smallest falcon in North America. They eat insects, mice, lizards, frogs, small birds, and bats. They are often hunted by their raptor cousins, the Red-Tail Hawk and Peregrine Falcon, as well as Barn and Great Horned Owls.
This American Kestrel was photographed on a tall shrub in a field between Bartlesville and Nowata in December 2009
American Kestrels usually live three years in the wild, but have survived for as long as 17 years in captivity.