Birds of Seabrook Island

COAST BIRDS
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  American Kestrel
 
 

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  Order Falconiformes - Diurnal Birds of Prey
   Family Falconidae - Falcons and Caracaras
      Subfamily Falconinae - Falcons

  Diurnal Birds of Prey include raptors with talons and hooked bill. Most hunt animal prey using acute vision which may be supplemented by hearing. (Several Old World forms have specialized for carrion eating with bare heads and long necks. They lack talons. These buteos are properly called "buzzards," not our New World Vultures.)
   The Tree of Life includes the diurnal birds of prey (and New World Vultures) in the Accipitriformes. The Encyclopedia of Life includes them in the Ciconiiformes.
Falcons are typically predators with long pointed wings, a long tail and rapid flight. They have large eyes, keen sight, and capture prey with their feet. They have a notched bill used to kill prey.
 
Relative size of falcons
 
     
  American Kestrel (American Sparrow Hawk), Falco sparverius
 
     Cornell     USGS     Wiki     ToL     EoL
        WINTER -  Fairly common (local) / Uncommon
            OPEN EDGES
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   The American Kestrel is only slightly smaller than the Merlin. It is a common winter bird throughout the state, often seen hovering or perched on wires in open areas. They hunt insects and small mammals and I have seen one capture a chickadee in flight. They are sometimes called "Sparrow Hawks..."
   Kestrels are long winged and long tailed with rather blunt wingtips, often swept back (all falcons increase speed using the "swept back" posture). The body of females is rufous and barred. Males have slaty colored wings and a rufous barred back. Sitting, the head is boldly patterned with both a moustache and an ear patch. All falcons sit with an upright posture
Kestrel
     
Male American Kestrel, Donnelley WMA.
Photo by Ed Konrad
   
  RANGE: Kestrels range from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego and the West Indies. In North America, they breed across southern Canada to interior Alaska and south to the Great Lakes. They winter south to Panama. Individuals may defend territories in winter.
  BREEDING: Monogamous. One brood, 2 in the south. Kestrels nest in cavities (including man-made nest-boxes) using little nesting material. They lay 4-6 (2-7) eggs which the female incubates with help for 28-31 days. Development is semialtricial. The female remains with her young at first while the male brings food. She returns to hunting when the young are 1-2 weeks old. Young fly after 28-32 days and are cared for by both parents up to 12 days after fledging. Juveniles may gather in groups with other young.
   They may use the same nest for a second brood if food is abundant (the male feeds the first clutch while the female incubates the second).
  DIET: Kestrels feed mostly on large insects but also take some small vertebrates including mammals and birds. They hunt by watching from a perch from which they "flycatch," sallying forth to catch prey - or by  hovering over a field when perches are not available. They may catch insects, birds, or bats in flight.  They may cache vertebrates in grass clumps.
  VOICE: Kestrels have a clear, shrill scream, "kie kli, kli, kli," repeating for however long they feel like it.
  NOTES:
   Checklists -
      Seabrook. Kiawah - uncommon fall through spring, rare summer. Edisto - winter.
      Coastal - fairly common (but local) winter visitor. Hilton Head - common permanent resident.
        Cape Romain
- uncommon/rare/uncommon/uncommon.
        Huntington Beach - rare August; common September - October; uncommon November - February; rare March - May.
      Caw Caw - fairly common/rare/fairly common/fairly common. ACE - common/rare/occasional/common.
   CBC: ACE 19, 10, 13, 17, 11, 10, 10, 7; Charleston 3, 8, 3, 3, 3, 1, 3, 2;
            St. Helena/Fripp x, x, x, x, x, x, 2, 4; Hilton Head 4, 2, 3, 3, 2, 3, 3, 6; Sun City/Okatie 1, 2, 1, CW, 2, 3, 1, 4;
            McClellanville 7, 8, 10, 1, nc, 3, 5, 7; Winyah Bay x, x, 3, 5, 6, 3, 2, 6; Litchfield/Pawley's 11, 8, 13, 2, 3, 2, 6, 4.
   SCBBA: Coastal breeding from Cape Romain north (Georgetown, Horry Cos.).
   P&G: Fairly common winter visitor. Only a few breeding sites are known for the lower coastal plain (Beaufort Co., Jasper co, Walterboro, Francis Marion Forest, Myrtle Beach). Egg dates: 7 April - 30 May.
   M&P: Breeding scarce before 1940. Until 1990, confirmed breeding limited to coastal plain - Francis Marion National Forest. Kestrels are using nest boxes provided by SCWMR.
   Avendex: 17 records, May - October, December.
   Potter: This species has largely recovered from the effects of pesticide pollution. They are most abundant during migrations and somewhat localized during the breeding season, nesting more often from the mountains to the inner coastal plain.
  ●  Fairly common in winter and migration but uncommon on Seabrook. Look for kestrels flying over the dunes during migration. In winter they are much more likely to be found perched or hovering around the Equestrian Center/Palmetto Lake areas and other open spots. When perched on a wire, they often wag their tail. Don't confuse them with Loggerhead Shrikes that may actually supplant many of them toward the coast as a more common winter predator of insects and small animals.
   
   
Relative sizes of our common falcons (from Sibley, 2000):
   
Species Length (") Wing Spread (") Weight (g)
   American Kestrel 9
22
117
   Merlin 10 24 190
   Peregrine 16 41 720
       
    Banner - American Kestrel. Donnelley WMA.
       
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