American Kestrel
(Falco sparverius)


Picture of bird
© Jukka Jantunen (
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

The American Kestrel is a small falcon that nests in tree cavities adjacent to open habitats across Canada. Results from the Breeding Bird Survey suggest that there has been a widespread decrease in its population since about 1970. The causes of this large decrease are not well known (Smallwood et al. 2009). This species has been identified as a priority for conservation and/or stewardship in one or more Bird Conservation Region Strategies in Canada.


Main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
IUCN (Global)Least concern2018 
Wild Species (Canada)Apparently secure2015 
Bird Conservation Region StrategyPriority Species2013 

Population status

Geographic area or populationPopulation change relative to ~1970ReliabilityStatus in relation to goal
CanadaLarge DecreaseMediumBelow Acceptable Level

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada 500,000 - 1,000,000 adults

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence

Short-distance migrant

Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population

General nesting period in Canada

Nesting period starts between late March and late May and ends between late July and mid-August, depending on the region. Before or after this period, the probability of an active nest is lower.

Conservation and management

While many raptors are increasing, the American Kestrel stands out as showing a long-term decline at the national level in Canada. Regeneration of marginal farmland, agricultural intensification and other processes leading to loss of open habitats mixed with trees are reducing suitable habitat for the species. Since kestrels eat insects (Smallwood and Bird 2002), the use of broad-scale insecticides has likely had an impact on this species' food supply. The American Kestrel is a secondary cavity-nester, using holes excavated by woodpeckers such as Northern Flickers and Pileated Woodpeckers for nest sites; it also readily accepts nest boxes (Smallwood and Bird 2002).


Bird conservation region strategies

Environment and Climate Change Canada and partners have developed Bird Conservation Region Strategies in each of Canada’s Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). In these strategies, selected species are identified as priorities for one or more of the following reasons:

  • conservation concerns (i.e., species vulnerable due to population size, distribution, population trend, abundance, or threats)
  • stewardship responsibilities (i.e., species that typify the regional avifauna or have a large proportion of their range or population in the sub-region)
  • management concerns (i.e., species that require ongoing management because of their socio-economic importance as game species, or because of their impacts on other species or habitats)
  • other concerns (i.e., species deemed a priority by regional experts for other reasons than those listed above or because they are listed as species at risk or concern at the provincial level)

Select any of the sub-regions below to view the BCR strategy for additional details.

BCRs, marine biogeographic units, and sub-regions in which the species is listed as a priority
RegionSub-region and priority type
Boreal Hardwood TransitionBoreal Hardwood Transition, sub-region and priority type: Ontario and Manitoba -- Conservation
Boreal Taiga PlainsBoreal Taiga Plains, sub-region and priority type: Prairie and Northern -- Other
Great BasinGreat Basin, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Conservation & Stewardship
Lower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence PlainLower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Plain, sub-region and priority type: Ontario -- Conservation
Lower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence PlainLower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Plain, sub-region and priority type: Quebec -- Conservation
Northwestern Interior ForestNorthwestern Interior Forest, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Conservation