Article and Photos by Jan Ramelli, Wildlife Photographer
My favorite bird, the American Kestrel! The Kestrel is the smallest falcon in North America.
The male and the female are close in size with the female being slightly larger. The biggest difference is in the plumage. The male has blue-grey wings with black spots and white undersides with black barring. The female has dark brown barring, with the undersides being a cream color with heavy brown streaking. They both have a white head with a bluish-grey top.
The Kestrel lifespan is relatively short, they typically live about 5 years. The male will attempt to attract a female by elaborate diving techniques coupled by calls of “Klee, klee, klee”! The pair will often mate for life and use the same nest year after year. They will typically find a cavity in a tree with a small opening to protect their nest. They will lay up to 7 eggs, incubation is approximately 30 days. The male and female share in the incubation period; the young reach their adult size in approximately 17 days and they are able to fledge within the month!
The diet of the kestrel is varied, including insects, lizards, mice, voles, and can actually catch a bird in midflight! You will often observe Kestrels along the side of the road, perched on telephone wires, and fence posts. While they will conserve their energy by perching in a tree, telephone pole or wire, or fence post; they will also “kite” where they hover and beat their wings rapidly before they pounce on their prey.
These little falcons are fairly common in our area, look for them alongside the road, especially in pastures and meadows! Sometimes I call this little raptor the “darn it bird” because it is so difficult to photograph! Almost every time I get just close enough to lift my lens into position it flies off! Darn it!