Bird of the Week

Posted Photo courtesy Ben Bailey

This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the American kestrel.

A favorite among many, the American kestrel is the smallest falcon found in North America. Oftentimes spotted on either power lines or poles, these compact (dove-sized) aerial predators scan for small prey in open country. Known to take large insects such as grasshoppers, moths and even dragonflies on the wing, these trained hunters oftentimes become specialized on a particular type of prey (including mice, voles, bats or even small birds).

Research has suggested that during winter, males and females may even adopt slightly different territories for hunting, with females selecting more open territories and males tending towards forest’s edge. This phenomenon may be a result of females taking the clever opportunity to move further south earlier and thus establishing themselves in more prime open habitat before the stubborn males pick up on the cue.

As for plumage, a distinguishing field mark for both males and females is the pair of black markings on each cheek, one of which is the falcon-familiar “mustache.” Males have a striking combination of slate blue on the head and wing and rusty red on the back. Females have a grayish head and slightly paler breasts and backs. Both don vertical bands of sparse spots down the breast.

These guys are cavity nesters. Consider placing a nesting box 10 fee plus off the ground for them at your home and you might successfully witness their hovering and swooping hunting mastery.

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