Saturday, February 27, 2021

American Kestrel

As a boy growing up I found a sparrow hawk nest in a hole in a tree in the front yard of the Brusnahans near our ranch outside Oakley, Utah. I took one of the babies out of the nest and took it home. I'm pretty sure I remember it flying and probably let it go.  

I've been kind of surprised lately to see the sparrow hawk referred to as the American kestrel. The name was changed in 1983 by the American Ornithologists Union. 

It is the smallest and most common falcon in North America. 

I've seen quite a few of them but I've not been getting any good photos. I find they are very skittish and fly before I can get near them. Most of my photos are very fuzzy. I wonder if there is something about their coloration which makes it difficult for the camera lens to focus on them. I finally got a good photo last Saturday which prompted this post. 

Males have blue-grey wings with black spots and white undersides with black barring. The back is rufous, with barring on the lower half. The belly and flanks are white with black spotting. The tail is also rufous, with a white or rufous tip and a black subterminal band. 
This male was photographed near the southern end of the Salton Sea standing on a power line. Note the black spots on the belly and flanks. 
The back and wings of the female American kestrel are rufous with dark brown barring. The undersides of the females are creamy to buff with heavy brown streaking. The tail is noticeably different from the male's, being rufous in color with numerous narrow dark black bars. In both sexes, the head is white with a bluish-grey top. 
This female looks so much different than the males that I thought it was a prairie falcon. Note the underside with brown streaking. 
There are also two narrow, vertical black facial markings on each side of the head, while other falcons have one.

1 comment:

  1. The stripes on their faces emanating from their eyes look like tear tracks. Why are they so sad?