In the decade I've lived in Wisconsin, I don't remember seeing these robin-sized raptors in February. So I was surprised to spot an American Kestrel last week during the "thaw." Today we spotted four more during our search for Golden Eagles in the coulees in west-central Wisconsin.
Do kestrels winter here - or is this a sign that migration has started?
I found the answers in the Atlas of Breeding Birds of Wisconsin.
Kestrels are present in Wisconsin year-round. During the winter, kestrels are uncommon in northern Wisconsin - and fairly common in the southern half of the state. They begin their northern migration in March and head south in August.
|American Kestrel - Christmas Bird Count|
While these wintering birds feed on small birds and mammals, during the breeding season they also eat large insects (beetles and grasshoppers), reptiles and amphibians.
They nest in tree cavities (abandoned woodpecker nests), on cliffs and in chimneys. They also will use human-made nest boxes if the habitat is "right (edges along highways, agricultural fields and grasslands).
|American Kestrels - Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas|
For a "guaranteed" look at American Kestrels - head over to Buena Vista Grasslands Wildlife Area in May.
|Nestling American Kestrel at Buena Vista Grasslands|