What does an American Kestrel sound like?

by Victor
American Kestrel on the grass

The American Kestrel, scientifically known as Falco sparverius, is a small but charismatic falcon species native to North America. Apart from its striking appearance, the American Kestrel is also known for its vocalizations. In this article, we will explore the various sounds produced by the American Kestrel, shedding light on their significance and providing a guide to understanding their vocal repertoire.

Overview of Vocalizations

The American Kestrel employs a diverse range of vocalizations, using calls and vocal displays to communicate with its mate, defend territory, or interact with other kestrels. While their vocalizations may vary slightly among individuals, there are several common sounds that are characteristic of the species.

“Klee” Call

The most familiar call of the American Kestrel is a distinct two-note whistle, often described as “klee” or “klee-ee.” This call is typically short, high-pitched, and repeated several times in a row. The “klee” call is commonly used by both males and females and serves as a contact call to maintain communication between mates or family members. It can often be heard during aerial displays or while perched.

Scream Call

Another notable vocalization of the American Kestrel is a shrill, piercing scream. This call is more commonly associated with the male kestrel during courtship or aggressive encounters with other males. The scream call is used as a territorial display, indicating the presence and dominance of a particular male in a given area. It is a high-pitched, repetitive screech that carries over long distances.

Chittering or Whining Call

The American Kestrel also produces a chittering or whining call, which is a rapid series of short, high-pitched notes. This call is often used during courtship or when the kestrel is displaying excitement or distress. The chittering call may also be heard when a kestrel is in close proximity to its nest or during feeding interactions.

Whinny Call

The whinny call is a distinctive vocalization of the American Kestrel, characterized by a descending series of high-pitched notes. This call resembles a horse’s whinny, hence its name. The whinny call is commonly used by both males and females during courtship displays or to announce their presence to other kestrels in the vicinity. It serves as a territorial call and can be heard during aerial displays or while perched.

Rattling Call

The rattling call of the American Kestrel is a fast, staccato-like sound resembling a series of rapid, chattering notes. This call is often produced during aggressive encounters, particularly when defending territory or during aggressive interactions with intruding kestrels or potential predators. The rattling call can be intense and rapid, displaying the kestrel’s assertiveness and determination.


The American Kestrel’s vocalizations are an essential aspect of its communication and behavior. By understanding and recognizing their various calls, observers can gain valuable insights into kestrel behavior, courtship displays, and territorial interactions. From the distinctive “klee” contact call to the piercing scream of the male during territorial displays, the vocal repertoire of the American Kestrel adds depth to our appreciation of this fascinating bird species.

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