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Male Kestrel vs Female Kestrel: How To Tell the Difference?

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Male Female Kestrel Side

The American Kestrel is widespread in North America. It belongs to the Falconidae family, and it’s the smallest member. Kestrels are excellent hunters, and their unique appearance will wow you.

Both males and females have attractive plumage, but if you’re unfamiliar with this species, you could mix them up. Because of that, we want to provide you with the most significant differences between male and female Kestrels.

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Visual Differences

Male Female Kestrel
Image Credit: Left (Male Kestrel) Snap_it, Pixabay, Right (Female Kestrel) dpexcel, Pixabay

At a Glance

Male Kestrel
  • Average height (adult): 7–12.2 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 8–5 ounces
Female Kestrel
  • Average height (adult): 7–12.2 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 3–5 ounces

Regarding the visual differences between male and female Kestrels, the biggest one comes from their plumage.  The males have more vibrant colors, with multiple patterns.  Their heads and underwings are typically dark gray, their bellies are rusty with dark spots, and their necks have striped patterns of white, rust, and black. 

Another thing that makes the male Kestrels stand out is their black tail and small, black, pointy bill.  They also have black markings on their cheeks, which is typical for both sexes. On the other hand, the female Kestrels are a bit dull.  However, they are still quite interesting as they have different shades of rusty brown combined with dark markings on their bodies.

Typically, the females have white bellies with rusty spots, deep brown backs with dark brown patches, and brown heads with gray crowns and black markings on their heads.  Unlike the male, who has a black tail, the female’s tail is darker than the rest of the body, but it’s not black.

As for their size, both male and female Kestrels can reach the same height, although the females are commonly heavier than males.  

hummingbird divider Kestrel 101

American Kestrel
Image By: SteveCrowhurst, Pixabay

The Kestrel is America’s smallest falcon.  The birds prefer areas with vegetation and trees, so you can commonly find them in grasslands, meadows, parks, deserts, farm fields, suburbs, and cities.

You can see American Kestrels hunting during the day or scanning their potential prey from a perch.  They nest in tree cavities, so their habitats during the breeding season are limited to areas with trees.  Although the species is widespread in the US, their numbers are slowly decreasing, which is why we should try to preserve their nesting spots and provide food for them.

Kestrel Diet

Both female and male Kestrels have the same diet. They typically eat insects and invertebrates, but they also consume small birds, reptiles, and rodents. Their common foods include:

  • Cicadas
  • Beetles
  • Grasshoppers
  • Scorpions
  • Dragonflies
  • Spiders
  • Moths
  • Bats
  • Mice
  • Lizards
  • Frogs
  • Snakes
  • Small songbirds
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Male and Female Kestrels Overview


Regarding their personalities, there are not many differences between female and male Kestrels.  Both sexes are graceful during their flight, although they can have difficulties flying in strong wind.  If perched, the birds will frequently pump their tails, which may seem like they’re trying to balance their weight.  You’ll commonly see them hunting and catching their prey during flight.

American Kestrel
Image By: The_Phantom_Monk, Pixabay


The breeding season is essential for all birds; this is when you’ll see several differences between male and female Kestrels. Here are some of the key things that set the two sexes apart:

  • The males are in charge of finding the breeding territory
  • Once at the breeding territory, the male Kestrel will repeatedly climb and dive; during this time, they release “klee” sounds
  • Courting pairs will frequently exchange food; the male feeds the female


These unique birds nest in tree cavities and rely on old structures for their nests.  The male searches for the nest, but he needs to get the final approval from the female Kestrel.  Unlike most other birds, Kestrels don’t use nesting material; they nest in the area they find without making any changes.

The female is the only one in charge of incubation, while the male finds food and protects the nest.  Once the young hatch, the female remains with them while the male provides food.

kestrel bird hovering in the air
Image By: TheOtherKev, Pixabay

How To Attract Kestrels To Your Backyard?

Although it’s not easy to attract Kestrels to your backyard, it’s not an impossible mission. If you’d like to attract these lovely birds to your backyard, follow these tips to increase your chances:

  • Provide nesting sites and install nesting boxes
  • Provide enough food and water
  • Maintain open areas
  • Keep your trees dense
  • Plant more trees
  • Add perches to open areas
  • Maintain trees with cavities
  • Don’t use pesticides
  • Restore grass

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America’s smallest Falcons are unique and beautiful, which is why we find them so intriguing. These stunning birds are intelligent, they’re excellent hunters, and they’re friendly with people. To support the birds, you can provide food, water, and nesting sources in your backyard.

Featured Image Credit:

About the Author Visnja Radosavljevic

Visnja is a creative, adaptable content writer that covers various topics such as DIY, pets, home improvement, travel, gardening, and more. As a young mom and a college student, she didn’t have enough time to balance her personal and work life, so after multiple years of working a regular 9 to 5 job, she decided to pursue her passion and make a living out of it. She has been writing for a couple of years now, helping people to find valuable and interesting information online.