kes·​trel | \ ˈke-strəl How to pronounce kestrel (audio) \

Definition of kestrel

: any of various small chiefly Old World falcons (genus Falco) that usually hover in the air while searching for prey: such as
a : a common Eurasian falcon (F. tinnunculus)
b : an American falcon (F. sparverius) having a reddish-brown back and tail and bluish-gray wings

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Did You Know?

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 Buongiorno, too, you kestrel in the blue, ignorant of tech genius and real estate. W. S. Di Piero, The New Yorker, "Aubade," 23 Mar. 2020 The island is home to more than two hundred species of birds, including kestrels, great horned owls, and little blue herons. Elisabeth Eaves, The New Yorker, "The Risks of Building Too Many Bio Labs," 18 Mar. 2020 Kestrel profile: Pam Starr’s photo looks like a painting, a profile of an American kestrel on a post flecked with snow in Sierra Valley (north of Reno). Tom Stienstra,, "The 8 best wildlife photos from 2019 in California," 18 Jan. 2020 This new-for-2019 rangefinder has it’s own internal ballistics calculator, and is also Bluetooth compatible with your phone and the kestrel elite weather meter. Tyler Freel, Outdoor Life, "The 2019 Rifle Shooter’s Holiday Gift Guide," 13 Nov. 2019 While broad-wings are the big show, other species commonly seen during the fall migrations include falcons, sharp-shinned hawks, American kestrels, ospreys, and northern harriers., "“They’re power fliers. They head out over open water and island hop to Nantucket, Long Island, and so on. They’re not intimidated by water like buteos are.”," 10 Oct. 2019 For example, kings could fly gyrfalcons, and servants could fly kestrels. Jennifer Billock, Smithsonian, "Six Spots Around the World Where You Can Try Your Hand at Falconry," 15 Nov. 2019 The American kestrel is the smallest, with a wingspan that can reach about 2 feet., "“They’re power fliers. They head out over open water and island hop to Nantucket, Long Island, and so on. They’re not intimidated by water like buteos are.”," 10 Oct. 2019 Both expert hunters, the American kestrel uses its acrobatic prowess, while the eastern screech owl is a stealthy silent hunter. Sara Ervin Walser, Laurel Leader, "Nature programs at Patuxent Research in full swing [South Laurel/Montpelier]," 28 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'kestrel.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of kestrel

15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for kestrel

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

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Time Traveler for kestrel

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

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Cite this Entry

“Kestrel.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Aug. 2020.

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