Monday, November 10, 2014

American Kestrel

         An American Kestrel watches for movements below. From this tall utility pole he sees everything.

It’s morning in Tucson, Arizona. The sun has been up for a couple of hours and the large insects that kestrels prey upon are rising. Insects make up a sizable percentage of an American Kestrel’s diet. They hunt small mammals such as mice and voles, too, but large insects are more plentiful.

Grasshoppers, butterflies and spiders are preferred.

American Kestrels are not big.  For comparison they are about the size of a Mourning Dove and so much like doves, they can be confusing.

They both rest on power lines along rural roadways, but the doves are far more common. 

American Kestrels are the smallest of the North American falcons.

Kestrels hunt during the day. You might find one hovering into the wind…fixed in place, yet still flying. It’s quite likely there is a food opportunity below. 

Because birds can see in the ultraviolet spectrum, they can detect the glowing urine trails left by voles as they crisscross the ground. Knowing where your food travels is a big advantage when hunting.

American Kestrels don’t enjoy top predator status, so they too are hunted.  They fall prey to hawks, owls and even crows. Therefore, it’s important to be vigilant, especially when you hunt from on high.


Credit: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds, The Sibley’s Guide to Birds