I recently saw a report of a family of American Kestrels in Mississauga, not too far off from my work. I haven't seen much of this species since the winter; we usually have a pair hunting some open spaces about 1 km north of our house through the winter months.
I never think to look for these birds in the summer. We get so busy with the Peregrine Falcon watches and then it's time to enjoy the backyard with our seemingly short summers, as much as I curse the high humidity some days.
So, with this report, it peaked my interest, and since I can easily pass the location on my way to work, I took a chance on it this past Monday. I was half expecting but totally hoping to see the birds, especially the juvenile ones. See it was a very hot and humid day, the birds much like us, can lay low in such extremes.
I get to the spot and of course, no birds to be seen. I look and listen about the vicinity, nothing but a few Pigeons and House Sparrows.
Well, still having some time to kill before my shift started, I decided to check some open field areas nearby as the Kestrels hunt in such spaces. And luck have it, I spotted two! A male and a female.
The female spent the whole time perched on a lamp post, preening away.
The male was keeping himself busy hunting over the field adjacent to the 403 near Eglinton. I saw him catch a couple Dragonflies and then return to some dead trees which gave me great views of him.
I find the American Kestrels overall to be a very skittish bird. More often than not they will flee at the sight of a human in close range. So I do my best to view them from the truck, and take any photos out the window.
Sometimes it pays to put the camera down and just watch and enjoy the experiences with them, as much as I like getting photos, the images are never quite as clear and spectacular as the ones in my brain. It's cool to see them hover over a field for a lengthy amount of time, suddenly diving down, disappearing in the grass and then pulling up a mouse.
Sadly American Kestrels are yet another declining species of bird in North America. There has been a lot of study on this in the last decade but nothing concrete on the reason why has been determined. Habitat loss? West Nile? Predation by Coopers Hawks? Other cavity nesting birds such as the European Starling driving them out? Who knows?
Much like the Eastern Bluebird nest box monitoring programs, the same is going on for the Kestrels. Every little bit helps. And actually that may be a program Angie and I could help with since we have Kestrels and not Bluebirds in our area. I know this doesn't go over very well with some people, helping a bird of prey; but it's all about balance. We need these birds. They help keep populations of other species in line, and assist in weeding out the flocks.
We used to have Kestrels come through our backyard. I'd see one high atop a neighbour's tree overlooking our feeders. We even had one snag a House Sparrow here while having company. It silenced our guests, and us too... the eerie blood curdling screams from the Sparrow it was preparing for it's dinner. I guess you now know why back in the day, Kestrels were called "Sparrow Hawks".
They are the smallest and prettiest Falcon we have... let's try to help keep them here with us for generations to come!
We've had some very up close and personal experiences with this beautiful species in recent years.
Me with Kyla, a female CPF educational bird, at the Toronto Sportsman Show.
I'm not one for speaking in front of people, but Kyla really helped me get over that.
Then there's Bean from Mountsberg. We've done photo shoots with him, and Angie and I got to mingle with him one on one in a private raptor encounter a couple years ago. Bean is a sweet little man! I wish I could find our photos with him and us. My mom met Bean for the first time last weekend and she made many comments on his beauty and lovely demeanor.
And most recently I was at a photo shoot with The Canadian Raptor Conservancy and had a blast with their little Kestrel!
No denying how colorful and pretty these birds are! So, if you love them... I hope you enjoyed this blog. If you don't, maybe you will have moved your opinion to "ya, they're okay" after this.
I recently learned of the Peregrinefund and their mission to help the Kestrels. I just joined the site and hope to have something to add in the coming months, but I know there's a lot to learn and they certainly can teach me.