American Kestrel
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The American kestrel (Falco sparverius) is the smallest predatory bird, or raptor, common to southern California, where it is a year-round resident. Like other raptors it is keen-eyed and vigilant, cocking its head this way and that in search of a potential meal, or the presence of another kestrel trespassing on its territory. Typical food items include grasshoppers, locusts, caterpillars, dragonflies, lizards, mice, small mammals, and small birds. The American kestrel was once known as the 'sparrow hawk' because of its inclination to hunt sparrows for food. Kestrels are frequently observed hovering in the air with their wings outstretched, as if hung by a string, this is an effective and distinctive method for hunting. The male American kestrel can be distinguished from the female by its bluish-gray wings contrasting with its reddish-brown back. Also, he can be identified by the unmarked reddish-brown tail feathers with a broad black band near the tip, unlike the female's tail which is marked with several cross-bars. They both give a shrill and repeated "ki-LEE, ki-LEE, ki-LEE" call. - - - - - - by Claude G. Edwards

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