American Kestrels on Man-made Perches

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In my years of observing American Kestrels I’ve seen these tiny falcons employ two different hunting techniques. They often sit on high perches like tree limbs or utility poles, looking for prey on the ground beneath them. In that mode, their objective is to swoop down on unsuspecting prey — insects, small reptiles, or mouse-size rodents — before the prey can react and flee. Kestrels also hunt on the wing. They are fast fliers and can occasionally chase down prey like dragonflies. They also have the unique ability among falcons to hover in place as they search for prey on the ground below.

Typically, when I see kestrels they are on high perches, employing one of their hunting tactics. But there are times when I see them perching low, often on cold mornings. A week ago I photographed two female kestrels within a matter of minutes. Both were perching on low, man-made perches. The first was on a gas pipeline marker, less than a meter above the ground.

I made an image of a second kestrel as she sat on a piece of farming equipment, at the moment that she spread her wings in preparation for flight.

Why would these kestrels opt for low perches? Possibly, these two kestrels had chosen low perches to stay out of the wind and to conserve body heat. In any event, the two were photogenic subjects and they gave me the rare opportunity to capture eye-level images of a beautiful little raptor.

Images made with a Canon R5, Canon EF 400mm f4 DO II lens+Canon EF 1.4x telextender, M setting (auto ISO). First image, ISO 400, f5.6 @ 1/2000. Second image, ISO 160, f5.6 @ 1/2000.

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