We have been lucky enough to have a pair of American Kestrels hanging around our property. Also called sparrow hawks, these beautiful little birds of prey are favored by falconers.
Their favorite perch is the electrical wires that run the length of our property, and the ornamental pear trees that form an alle’e along our 900 foot driveway.
They will fly away as soon as the car approaches, almost racing it down the driveway to the house.
In mid January, I was very surprised to see one of the pair sitting on our deck bird feeder. They have never come this close! In fact, the whole time the kestrel was puffed up in the falling snow, a tiny junco was underneath, on the floor, literally not moving– and doing his best to remain invisible! The kestrel diet consists of mice, voles, other small rodents, larger insects, and the occasional small bird. I could almost see the junco heave a giant sigh of relief when the kestrel left!!! The junco can be seen in the photo below, in the lower pot hanging on the railing.
The kestrel sat, surveyed the scene, and called to its mate. I was very glad to have been able to see it up close and relatively still.
About a month later, as we were leaving the house, my daughter went out first, then came back in telling me there was something outside that, in one way, I was not going to be happy about, but in another way, I would!
I followed her outside, and there outside the garage door, between 2 vehicles, was one of the kestrels, dead.
She was right, I was very sad about this, but happy that I would be able to inspect one at close range.
Being a bird of prey, it is against the law to keep him, but since he was right in front of the garage door, he had to be removed. I did take this opportunity to photograph, measure, and weigh him (for a future watercolor) .
I should have been a naturalist, I am fascinated by all things in nature, dead or alive. Death allows closer inspection.
This (and future posts) will include these discoveries- so if you don’t like dead things – heed my warnings, and go no further!!!
This poor kestrel, appears to be a male – males have a spotted breast, females, streaked- another thing you can’t really see as they go zooming by!! His dead weight was 3.8 oz, and breast bone was not pronounced, so he did not seem to have been starving. His weight fell on the lighter side of their usual weight range of 80g-156g, but still within the parameters.
After watching a documentary on falconers, it was interesting to learn that the handlers weigh their birds before each hunt, because if their weight is a tad too high, it will affect their hunting abilities. So, as in the wild, the falcons have to be careful not to overeat.
Upon closer inspection, I discovered the beak was split in half. At first glance, I thought maybe he had crashed into the truck or garage while diving for food, but the break appears to have been there quite a while. Despite this deformity, he seemed to have managed quite well, up until that day!
Not a large bird, the kestrel measured 10″ from head to tail, wingspread from shoulder to shoulder was 6″ , wing tip to tip about 14″. Shoulder to wing tip was about 7 1/2″. He had about 8 or 9 tail feathers, his lower leg from elbow to toe was about 2″.
Except for the split on the top, his beak seemed fully functioning and in good shape.
A beautiful little bird, I would have loved to preserve him – but it is against the law to have one, dead or alive, without proper license.
Since his death, I have not seen his mate. Hopefully, if she survives, and finds another life partner, she will return with him to our property.
All is well, and never dull, here at Mountain Meadows this bright, sunny March morning……………………..