Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Kestrels in action

Late summer saw numerous kestrel fledglings disperse from their nest cavities here in the city. After leaving the nest, kestrel families will usually stick together for a while as the parents teach the youngsters to hunt large insects and small birds and rodents. I spent a few days with one such family on Governors Island as they practiced their new hunting and flying skills.

This male has a very pale chest and a generous smattering of black spots.

Kestrel

Below is a second male with smaller, fainter spots.

Kestrel

Two males together:

Kestrels

Below is a third, heavily spotted male. Note he has two striped outer tail feathers on each side while the male above has only one on each side. This was one way to tell them apart.

Kestrel

Two females:

Kestrels

I had a harder time telling the females apart as their color patterns looked very similar. They also flew around so fast, it was hard to keep up.

Kestrel

Kestrel

Kestrel

The kestrels preferred perching on bare branches at the highest points of the trees. From there, they could see each other and their prey.

Kestrel coming in for a landing

Kestrel

Kestrel

A female and the heavily spotted male perch together:

Kestrels

So, why all the darting around in the trees? Late summer offers up the perfect kestrel snack: cicadas. Below, one of the females tucks into one.

Kestrel eating a cicada

Crop full and sun going down, the heavily-spotted male perches on a rooftop as I reluctantly head back to the ferry.

Kestrel

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