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American Kestrel, Image Credit: Joe Riederer

This small falcon is sometimes called the "sparrow hawk" because of its ability to pluck songbirds right out of the sky. It is often seen hovering like a helicopter, flapping its wings quickly and waiting to dive and grab insects and small mammals. Kestrels are daytime hunters. You can often spot one sitting on a telephone wire or tall pole above an open field waiting to glide and dive after its lunch. Kestrels can be found living far out in the wild or in open fields near cities and towns.

The kestrel measures between 9 and 12 inches long and has blue-gray wings. You might spot it by looking for the easy to identify dark, black stripes that look like they are dripping from the eye. Kestrels have a rust-colored back and tail with a wide black band across the tail feathers. Their underside is a light tan with dark brown polka-dots along their side, wing and back in their mid-section.

Kestrels can be seen year-round in the southern part of Wisconsin and throughout the state in the summer. They nest in tree cavities.