Thursday, June 14, 2012

American kestrels

Thank you to those who submitted guesses on our last Raptor Baby Facebook Cover photo. These are American kestrel chicks.
The American kestrel is a snazzy little falcon with fast wing beats and the ability to hover (fly in place) as it searches for its next meal, most often a small rodent or insect. It is striking in color with dark malar stripes, characteristic of many falcon species, running down the sides of its cheeks, and the sexes sporting different colors. The male has bluish-gray wings, blue feathers on its head and a solid cinnamon colored tail bordered by a single dark terminal band. The female has a small blue area on top of her head, but is more uniformly cinnamon with dark barring on the wings, back and tail.

In many areas throughout the country, the population of kestrels has taken a noticeable decline, especially in urban areas. The cause of this decline is under investigation and TRC is helping in this effort through Kestrel Watch, a citizen science project that encourages people to report kestrel sightings to our online site.
 In Minnesota, most kestrels are ¾ of the way through their breeding efforts. The eggs have hatched and the chicks (up to 5 per clutch) are at or close to fledging age. Kestrels nest in natural cavities or cavity-like structures such as nest boxes and the eves of buildings. So, if you are lucky enough to observe a family of kestrels, the males and females are busy right now hunting to feed their large brood, either by dropping food into the cavity or giving it to chicks perched on branches. When the chicks first leave the cavity, they are not polished fliers and will end up in all sorts of compromising places: on decks, air conditioners, automobiles and playground equipment to name a few. In the majority of cases, they are just fine, learning how to refine their hunting skills while they are still being taken care of by their hard-working parents.

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