The Bird Formerly Known as the Sparrowhawk


American Kestrels are the smallest bird of prey in North America, and some might argue, the best. Because of their diminutive size, bird aficionados have called them sparrowhawks in the past. They are neither sparrow nor hawk, but rather a falcon. They are not only beautiful, but also fantastic hunters; they eat invertebrates primarily, but also rodents, lizards, and larger prey, including squirrels and medium-sized birds. They are highly adaptable, often seen around areas with human activity, but are declining in large part due to a lack of breeding sites. Kestrels rely on pre-fabricated nesting sites. According to, they rely on old woodpecker holes, natural tree hollows, rock crevices, and nooks in buildings and other human-built structures. The male searches for possible nest cavities. When he finds suitable candidates, he shows them to the female, who makes the final choice. Typically, nest sites are in trees along wood edges or in the middle of open ground. American Kestrels take readily to nest boxes.

We’re hoping that they take to the recently-installed nesting box at Coyote Hills. Doc Quack (Dave Riensche, from our Stewardship Department) located a suitable site and Tlaloc Medina, our park crafts specialist, set up the nesting box. If they make a nest there, we can look forward to three to seven eggs next spring, and the possibility of the same mated pair returning to the nesting site for multiple years. Either way, we will likely continue to see kestrels at the park, so keep your eyes out for these little beauties.

Jen Vanya, Public Information Specialist