American Kestrel (Female) — Watching Me Closely

You may enlarge any image in this blog by clicking on it.  Click again for a detailed view.

The other day I encountered a female American Kestrel.  She perched on a utility wire, sheltered by a pole’s crossbeam.

Normally, kestrels are among the jumpiest of birds, flying at the slightest provocation when approached.  However, this kestrel didn’t fly, she stayed put and allowed me to spend several minutes observing and photographing her.  I happily took advantage of the opportunity to make some images.

I was curious about her behavior.  She plainly knew that I was parked almost underneath her because she frequently stared directly at me.  And  yet, she stood her ground, a very un-kestrel like attitude.

Why was this bird so apparently comfortable in my presence?  I’m speculating but my guess is that it might have had something to do with that crossbeam.  Sitting beneath it, the kestrel was sheltered from possible predators, like a Peregrine Falcon.  She must have felt reasonably secure there.

If you look closely at this bird you’ll see the beginning of a brood patch on her breast.  Female birds of many species molt their breast feathers at the beginning of their breeding season, exposing a patch of bare skin.  It is thought that this facilitates incubation of eggs because, when the bird sits over her eggs, it is her bare skin — warmer than the surrounding feathers — that comes into contact with them.  That brood patch is yet another sign that spring is arriving.

Kestrels are cavity nesters, meaning that they rear their young in holes — here, perhaps, in a Saguarro Cactus, or in a clift on a rocky face.  The likelihood is that this falcon will be raising a family someday very soon.

Images made with a Canon 5Div, 400mm f4 DO II lens+1.4x telextender, M setting (auto ISO), ISO 500, f7.1 @ 1/2000.

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