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Monday, November 05, 2007

Kestrel in Highland Park

I mentioned in my previous post that I went to the Ridgewood Reservoir yesterday to retrieve my Birdcam. On our way back to the subway, my wife suddenly stopped and pointed to a bird perched on a television antenna. She thought it might be a falcon. I fished my bins out of my pack and, sure enough, there was a kestrel perched above the roof of the apartment building at the corner of Cleveland and Arlington.

My wife is only a sometimes-birder, but kestrels are a favorite and she seems to be able to spot them from a mile away. Her love of these feisty, little falcons began about 20 years ago. We were at a raptor exhibition at the Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary on Long Island. At the indoor facility there were several handlers walking around with various owls, hawks and falcons that they use for educational purposes. As is the case with some birds brought in for rehabilitation, they had recovered from their injuries, but for various reasons could not be released into the wild. The male American Kestrels have beautifully patterned rust, blue-gray and white plumage. They are only about the size of a Blue Jay, but, given half a chance, could probably kill and eat a jay. Up close, they look surprisingly delicate. We were admiring a male kestrel perched on its handler's arm, when another handler walked by with a Barn Owl. The tiny falcon reacted by puffing up his feathers and emitting a high-pitched "ki ki ki ki ki ki ki". If it weren't for the tether on his leg, he seemed like he would have attacked the owl. Now, bear in mind that the average kestrel weights about 117 grams, whereas the average Barn Owl weighs in at a hefty 460 grams. He was either gutsy or foolish, take your pick. The owl ignored the falcon's threats.

We had been watching the kestrel on the T.V. antenna for a few minutes when it took off, making a beeline right into a pine tree across the street from where we were standing. Sparrows scattered, but the falcon emerged from the tree, sparrow-less. He flew back up to his perch to wait for another opportunity. We heard a familiar "ki ki ki ki ki" from somewhere to our right and he took off in that direction. I ran up to the corner and saw that he had joined another kestrel, a female and probably his mate. Together they circled above the two story homes along Arlington Place, then disappeared up the hill, towards the reservoir.

I took this photo of a male American Kestrel at Floyd Bennett Field.

This guy hitched a ride to my apartment in a recess on my Birdcam. I think he's a type of grass spider. I'm not sure, so I posted the photo on the Bug Guide website.

by Rob Jett for "The City Birder"

1 comment:

Yojimbot said...

yay kestrels!

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