Hope your holidays season is going well for those who take part in the festivities. Things are winding down at work, well, let’s put it in a more accurate manner – my workdays are coming to a close this year but work is definitely not winding down and 2015 is looking to be back on the SAP roller coaster once again. As for now, I’m enjoying taking the last of my vacation days and thought I’d spend a bit of that working on the blog quota. As mentioned previously, I have a number of posts in the queue in the Halloween decoration arena and thanks to an awesome recent gift from my brother looks like I’ll be adding additional chapters to that project – more to come! I try to keep a variety around here, and therefore weaving in other topics among Posey posts. In that vein I give you a bird that has a history of taunting me.
This bird of prey may be small in stature, but what it makes up for in size is more than compensated by its elusiveness. For those not familiar with this ornately colored bird it is the American Kestrel. Living out in the country I have the benefit putting eyes on these cool birds fairly often. Typically they are spotted hanging out on a high overhead wire or on top of a tall sign. Whenever I’m driving I’ll routinely scan those areas looking for a solitary bird staring intently at the ground.
Hit the jump to see and read more about the Kestrel.
Every single time I have the opportunity to attempt a shot, the Kestrel will spot me approaching and refocus its attention on the potential threat. The second the glass goes up in that direction it will get extremely agitated and take to the skies for safety. Every single time I try to get it in the tin. The only way I was able to get these less than stellar shots was to pull out The Beast and in some cases the 1.4 tele in a desperate attempt to keep myself out of sight range. That, of course, results in some softness in the shot having to focus on such a small object at that distance. Admittedly surprised these first few shots turned out as well as they did. Even trying to keep my distance the subject usually spots me and gives me a nasty look.
From the front it is a little difficult to visualize the unique coloring these Falcons possess. They have a mixture of slate blue, rust brown, white and black that make it easily identifiable from your average country birds and their stature quickly separates it from the larger Hawks and Falcons in the area. What I didn’t know is the female caries the rust brown onto the wings where the males sport the slate blue coloring on their wing feathers. That will make it easier to distinguish gender for later encounters. If you are wondering, this is North America’s smallest Falcon. A Raptor with an attitude! Here is a shot, although soft, does show a little better the color contrasts of the Kestrel.
Based on the recently gained knowledge, I can comfortably proclaim this is a male Kestrel taking flight having once again spotted me approaching.
From a behavior perspective, I have never seen other birds really mess with them. The Hawks in the area are constantly attacked by the more common birds until they vacate the area or take safety in the trees. An apparent lack of respect for their “aaaathooorritay”. Either the other birds do not consider it much of a threat or it is just one mean bird and they want nothing to do with it. I have also never seen a Kestrel hanging out on a wire or post with another Kestrel. That may just be a weird coincidence but a an interesting observation.
According to the Cornell All About Birds site, these pretty birds actually nest in not so pretty dwellings. They apparently spray their feces on their nesting walls (eesh) and that combined with kill leftovers makes for a dwelling only a skunk would appreciate – or maybe a Vulture. No wonder they spend their time hanging out on open wires – so they can breathe (hehehe). That sight did mention they are prey for Owls and other Hawks so maybe that is why they are so skittish when it comes to others giving them undue attention.
Kestrels live on insects, small rodents and what is sure to be pleasing to Linda.. small snakes. When she reads that she is probably going to ask me how we can lure a couple hundred of them to the lot. I thought this was an interesting tidbit from Cornell’s site – Kestrels (and guessing birds in general) can see ultraviolet which allows them to trace urine trails of voles etc. Gives me visions of Predator scanning the terrain for heat sources.
There is one observed feature that must be an adaptive protection mechanism and annoy the crap out of Kestrel children – they possesses eyes on the back of their heads! This has been a difficult feature to capture but it does show up a little in the following shot.
No sneaking up from behind on these predators – by the way, just noticed our friends over at Wikipedia do comment on these spots being a defense mechanism. The image below shows a little better view of the black dots on one side of the head.
I’ll leave you with the assurance these beautiful birds have a Conservation Status of Least Concern (goodness). I will continue trying to get better shots of these creatures – if nothing else, an ongoing mission to get closer to them – having to reach with the Big Glass means the resulting images are small and tough to get any decent print quality – works okay for this post, but nothing I’d offer up to a customer. Don’t get me wrong, these still count for a sweet check mark in the bird list!
Hope you enjoyed and I’ll work a little harder in 2015 to get some better quality shots.
2 thoughts on “Reaching for a Kestrel”
We have Kestrels around here–one of them was circling around our kittens outside the summer before last. I agree they are solitary creatures, and I’ve never seen any birds messing with them like the hawks. I certainly didn’t know they have markings on the back of their head that look like they are looking at you!
Thanks for the info–the photos look good to me, maybe it’s just enlarging them that’s the problem.
Thanks for the confirmation on the solitaire observation.
At this size they are okay but any time of enlargement shows the grain and post processing artifacts as I tried to squeeze out as much detail as I could. Definitely not ones to print and put on display – as I tell Linda, they are good bird list shots – as in good enough to get the check on the bird list but not one I’d put up in our gallery.