Family Falcons, Caracaras (Falconidae)

Least Concern

American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)


French: Crécerelle d’Amérique German: Buntfalke Spanish: Cernícalo americano

Falco sparverius


, 1758,

America = South Carolina, USA


Has been placed in separate genus, either Cerchneis or Tinnunculus. Often considered a member of the F. tinnunculus group (see latter species). Race sparverioides appears distinctive, occurring as two morphs (pale and dark), but otherwise not different from other races. Seventeen subspecies normally recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • F. s. sparverius Linnaeus, 1758 – North America from Alaska E across S Canada to W Newfoundland, and S through USA (except SE) to W Mexico (except coastal region); winters S through Central America to Panama.
  • F. s. paulus (Howe & L. King, 1902) – SE USA from South Carolina to Florida.
  • F. s. peninsularis Mearns, 1892 – NW Mexico (S Baja California, Sonora and N Sinaloa).
  • F. s. tropicalis (Griscom, 1930) – S Mexico to N Honduras.
  • F. s. nicaraguensis T. R. Howell, 1965 – lowland pine savannas in E Honduras and adjacent Nicaragua.
  • F. s. sparverioides Vigors, 1827 – Bahamas, Cuba and I of Pines, and Jamaica#R.
  • F. s. dominicensis J. F. Gmelin, 1788 – Hispaniola.
  • F. s. caribaearum J. F. Gmelin, 1788 – Puerto Rico and Virgin Is to Lesser Antilles (S to Grenada).
  • F. s. brevipennis (Berlepsch, 1892) – Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire (Leeward Antilles).
  • F. s. isabellinus Swainson, 1838 – lowland N Colombia, Venezuela (including Margarita I) and the Guianas to extreme N Brazil (Roraima).
  • F. s. ochraceus (Cory, 1915) – Andes of NW Venezuela S through Colombia (E slope of C range, and E Andes).
  • F. s. caucae (Chapman, 1915) – W Colombia (W Andes and W slope of C Andes).
  • F. s. aequatorialis Mearns, 1892 – Andes of SW Colombia (Nariño) and subtropical Ecuador (S to about Chimborazo).
  • F. s. peruvianus (Cory, 1915) – subtropical SW Ecuador, W Peru and N Chile (S to Tarapacá).
  • F. s. fernandensis (Chapman, 1915) – Robinson Crusoe I (Más a Tierra), in Juan Fernández Is, off WC Chile.
  • F. s. cinnamominus Swainson, 1838 – SE Peru, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay#R and extreme SE Brazil (Rio Grande do Sul) S to Tierra del Fuego.
  • F. s. cearae (Cory, 1915) – tablelands from NE Brazil (S Maranhão, S Piauí) S and W to E Bolivia and Santa Catarina.
  • Descriptive notes

    21–31 cm; male 80–143 g, larger female 84–165 g; wingspan 51–61 cm (all data from North America, but considerable variation throughout range, e.g.... read more


    Rather silent when not breeding. Commonest call is a fast shrill “klee-klee-klee-klee...”, given by... read more


    Ubiquitous. Most habitats except tundra, from tropical lowlands and deserts (even below sea level)... read more

    Food and feeding

    Largely insects (c. 60%) and small vertebrates, mainly small rodents, up to 89 g (c. 40%) in nominate sparverius. Lizards... read more


    Timing somewhat dependent on latitude: Mar–Jul in North America; Dec–Jun in Cuba; Dec–Feb in Venezuela; may be double-... read more


    Resident or sedentary over most of range. Race sparverius, from Alaska, Canada and N USA,... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Ubiquitous, and perhaps commonest New World falconid overall. Expanding range and increasing numbers in many regions;... read more

    Recommended citation

    White, C.M., Kirwan, G.M., Christie, D.A. & Boesman, P. (2019). American Kestrel (Falco sparverius). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 10 December 2019).