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American Kestrel – A Signature Move

American Kestrel migration is heaviest in the afternoon, as it is for most falcons. During this period it is quite common for kestrels to halt their migration and hunt. If you examining a small, distant, low-flying falcon, and it suddenly pulls up and hovers, it is clearly an American Kestrel (Dunne, Sibley and Sutton 2012). This situation pretty well describes what happened before me at Hawk Cliff, Ontario this past weekend. It was well past two in the afternoon when I and other hawk watchers present spotted a falcon that had landed in a tree across the field. It then proceeded to hover hunt, which made the identification straightforward, assuming of course you were aware of the information noted at the beginning of this paragraph. I made some photos, but the distance between the bird and me was more than I would like. I decided to walk along the edge of the cliff towards the falcon hoping that the American Kestrel would repeat its hovering and hunting maneuver. I was not disappointed and I was able to fire off several clicks capturing this behavior.

1/1600, f/5.6, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon 400mm DO II + 1.4x III tc

Above we see a male American Kestrel hovering, which is its "signature". Merlins, which are slightly larger than American Kestrels don't hover.

1/1600, f/5.6, ISO 320, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon 400mm DO II + 1.4x III tc

As the falcon began its dive towards the ground I obtained a nice dorsal view. This male shows all the classic field marks including: dark moustache and sideburn; reddish tail with broad terminal band; string of white pearls along the trailing edge of the wing. In females the string of pearls is buff-coloured. Also note the blue wings and rusty back. Females have dark-barred, reddish brown upperparts (Dunne, Sibley and Sutton 2012).

1/1600, f/5.6, ISO 400, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon 400mm DO II + 1.4x III tc

From the side view in the above photo of a male Anerican Kestrel hunting, we see that the wings have soft lines, lacking any sharp angles.

1/1600, f/5.6, ISO 400, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon 400mm DO II + 1.4x III tc

And in the last photo of today's post, we see the striking pattern of a male American Kestel.

I have struggled in the past to get decent photos of this species and this was the first time I captured this well-documented behaviour. With a little bit of luck one day I'll capture even better photos of this beautiful falcon.

 

New Gallery Photos Added                Gallery

American Kestrel                                 Hawks, Eagles and Kites

 

Happy Birding,

Claude

 

References:

Dunne, Pete, Sibley, and David, Sutton, Clay 2012. Hawks in Flight, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Company, New York, New York 

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