Female American Kestrel

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I took a drive through rural agrarian Arizona this morning with my friend Ned Harris.  After roaming around for a couple of hours we encountered a female American Kestrel sitting on a dead branch.  Her perch was located on a roadside adjacent to a large field and there were several dead mesquites next to the road.

Kestrels are normally extremely skittish and seldom stay around long enough to be photographed.  This bird was unusually cooperative for a kestrel.  But, for these birds, “cooperative” is a relative term.  She didn’t exactly hang around for a long time.  But, she didn’t fly instantly when we attempted to photograph her and that made her different from most of her peers.

After a few seconds, however, she did fly, but only to the next dead mesquite, where she posed again.

We wondered why this bird was being so relatively cooperative and we soon found out.  After she’d flown for a second time, we observed her playing tag with another bird, a male American Kestrel.  The two birds were obviously an item and were reluctant to separate.

I wish that I had been able to photograph the male but he was having none of us and we never got close enough to him to take his picture.

This is breeding season for all sorts of birds, kestrels included.  Paired kestrels, like these birds, establish a breeding territory that they are reluctant to surrender.  Kestrels, unlike other falcons, nest in cavities.  It is probable that somewhere in the vicinity of our sighting this pair has found a nesting place — a hollow tree trunk or, perhaps, an abandoned woodpecker nest in a Saguaro — and is in the process of settling down to raise their young.

Images made with a Canon 5Diii, 100-400mm f4.5-4.5 ISII zoom lens+1.4x telextender, aperture priority setting, ISO 400, f8 @ 1/1600.

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