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Often mistaken for a Hawk, the Kestrel is too small for a Hawk. This beautiful bird, a young adult male Kestrel, is the smallest in the falcon family of raptors. You’ll see Kestrels perched on telephone or power lines, where you are not likely to find Hawks. Hawks will sit on the cross bars, but rarely on the lines themselves.
This handsome young adult male still carries some of his juvenile chest markings. Here is an older male showing us his fine gray feathered wings.
Just to be fair, here are two photos of female Kestrels.
Obviously she is on the hunt. Unlike some birds, male and female Kestrels don’t seem to hunt very close to each other, at least I haven’t seen them do that.
And she brings her catch to a favorite perch for lunch.
Kestrels also perch on fence posts and tall poles where they look mostly for large insects such as grasshoppers, potato bugs, crickets. (A bit of green, a bit of brown, a bit of black supply appropriately varied anti-oxidants, you know.) Here are three shots of a male, watching, launching and finally, snacking on his catch.
I’ve noticed more Kestrels this year than in the last few, all across the North Bay from San Rafael to Lodi. Don’t know why, but the food supply must be OK or they would have moved on. Graceful in flight, they are fun to watch. Kestrels are easier to watch than Hawks. Hawks will leave and fly a long way off as soon as you get out of your car. As often as not, they will circle and climb until they are hard to see. But Kestrels are used to moving up and down the length of the power lines and then back again. So, if you think you have scared one away, just wait, he or she will likely be back soon.
Watching their sudden dives and captures followed by the flight back to where they started, with their prey in their tiny beaks, is well worth the short wait.
Looking very much like a knight of old with his foot on the “Dragon” this Kestrel sticks a classic victory pose.
Kestrels are adaptable. They live all over North America and do not seem to migrate each year as much as other birds. Kestrels will hover, like White-tail kites do, but much closer to the ground.
Kestrels are a challenge to photograph. It took me several years to be able to track and capture them in flight. But it was great fun, even the missed shots.