kes·​trel ˈke-strəl How to pronounce kestrel (audio)
: any of various small chiefly Old World falcons (genus Falco) that usually hover in the air while searching for prey: such as
: a common Eurasian falcon (F. tinnunculus)
: an American falcon (F. sparverius) having a reddish-brown back and tail and bluish-gray wings

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There are several birds of prey that are called kestrels. Kestrels are noted for hovering while hunting their prey of large insects, birds, and small mammals. Kestrels are mainly Old World birds, but one species, the American kestrel, often called sparrow hawk in the US, is common throughout North and South America. It is about 12 in (30 cm) long, white or yellowish below, and reddish brown and slate-gray above, with colorful markings on the head. The common kestrel of the Old World is larger and less colorful.

Examples of kestrel in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web One day, our resort brought in an expert from the local rescue Liberty Wildlife, who wandered the grounds with a falcon one day and a kestrel during the next. Alexandra Sanidad, Condé Nast Traveler, 20 June 2024 Avoid the sweltering heat by hiking during October through April, and keep your eyes peeled for diverse wildlife, including javelina, fox, bobcat, rabbit, American kestrels, and Gila woodpeckers clinging to Cholla cactus. Lauren Matison, Condé Nast Traveler, 2 Jan. 2023 Workers at the institute thought the kestrel would make an excellent educational flight ambassador. Cathy Free, Washington Post, 31 Oct. 2023 Mice and voles living on the land drew foxes and migratory raptors such as kestrels and harriers, who feasted on the cornucopia each time the grass was mowed. Cara Buckley, New York Times, 13 Dec. 2023 After this incident, the man brought the raptor to a local rehabilitator, who concluded the kestrel had likely imprinted on humans. Margaret Osborne, Smithsonian Magazine, 28 Nov. 2023 There are elk and bear, kestrels and ravens, tall grasses and deer, and trout in deep, cool pools. Abe Streep, Scientific American, 10 Nov. 2023 But Ferrisburgh, an American kestrel with an injured wing, is headlining art classes in Vermont and drawing crowds with his talented talons. Cathy Free, Washington Post, 31 Oct. 2023 The kestrel’s keepers wanted to keep him engaged with the public after his injury. Cathy Free, Washington Post, 31 Oct. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'kestrel.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English castrel, from Middle French crecerelle, from crecelle rattle; from its cry

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of kestrel was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near kestrel

Cite this Entry

“Kestrel.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Jul. 2024.

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