Michigan is blessed with a diverse range of wildlife, and among its avian residents, the American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) stands out as an icon of beauty and adaptability. These small raptors sometimes called Sparrow Hawks, are a little larger than a mourning dove and often migrate during this time of year.
While some American Kestrels in Michigan call the state home year-round, others embark on remarkable seasonal migrations along the Atlantic and Mississippi Flyways. Here's a great resource to check current migration patterns and activity.
The American Kestrels in Michigan, particularly those residing in the eastern parts of the state, often follow the Atlantic Flyway during their migrations. This migratory corridor encompasses vital stopover points in Michigan, serving as rest areas for these birds as they travel between their breeding and wintering grounds. In contrast, kestrels in the western regions of Michigan, including the western Upper Peninsula, often utilize the Mississippi Flyway during their seasonal migrations. This route takes them on an incredible journey, passing through diverse landscapes as they head south for the winter. Michigan plays a pivotal role in this migration, with several stopover locations where these raptors refuel and rest before continuing their journey.
The primary factors influencing American Kestrel migration in Michigan are food availability and weather conditions. These raptors are known for their insectivorous diet, which includes small mammals and birds. As Great Lakes winters bring a decline in insect populations and reduced activity among small mammals, many kestrels migrate in search of better foraging opportunities. By moving to warmer regions with more abundant food sources during the winter, they enhance their chances of surviving and successfully reproducing.
Here is a great article about how Michigan orchardists are working to improve partnerships with this small falcon.