Wednesday, August 16, 2017

American Kestrel (trigger warning: dead bird)

That bird on the wire that ALWAYS flies away when you drive by is the American Kestrel. Kestrels, our smallest falcon, are wary birds. They covet their space, but prefer to leave rather than share it with you in your car... don't take it personally.

Comparable in size to a pigeon or dove, they're at home in rural America. Miles of electric lines provide an ideal perching spot from which to hunt.

Hay making uncovers mice, voles and grasshoppers... the American Kestrel's diet.

Unfortunately, America's rural roads present dangers to young and inexperienced birds. A newly fledged American Kestrel lost his life to traffic near Belgium, Wisconsin.

In earlier times trees provided perches and cavities for nesting. With today's farming norms... huge expanses of cropland, the electric wires now provide hunting platforms.

Although American Kestrel numbers are declining overall, they are still a widespread and numerous bird.

Nest boxes ease the problem of available nesting cavities, but boxes are not the solution.

A young American Kestrel waits for a parent's return, hopefully with food. Pesticides have severely reduced the number of grasshoppers, spiders and other insects the birds depend on to survive.

Watchful and quick to respond, this female American Kestrel lets me know she has had her picture taken one too many times. She turns-tail and disappears to a wire far away.

Credit: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds