Baby birds of prey, entertaining all day. By, Mandi Crinigan
Previously, I told you the story of a fledgling House Finch. It’s super easy to be cute if you are a baby songbird. But can “Birds of Prey” also be cute and entertaining? Oh yes, absolutely! They can also scare the bejeezus out of you!
I should start by telling you that up until two years ago, I had never seen a Kestrel and had no idea these little falcon species existed. Measuring between 9 and 12 inches in length, these are the smallest falcons and they’ve adapted pretty nicely to living alongside humans. So, it should not have been a surprise when one morning I found one in my lemon tree.
Here I was again, tending to my backyard or my bird sanctuary as it is now known. Lemons were just starting to ripen, and I was pondering what to do about all these citrus bombs that could give you a concussion. I never wanted a lemon tree, had no idea how to grow lemons, but here I was with all this citrus. And a quiet stalker.
OH! MY! EXPLETIVE! There was a small bird of prey watching me. Just maybe two feet from my face! I could TOUCH HIM! Not that I tried. He was just perched comfortablely. One baby taloned foot tucked under his fluff. He looked at me with passive interest and I was thrilled. I could NOT believe what I was seeing. I started snapping photos with my phone camera. This little fella just DID NOT care. I was about to learn why he was being so calm.
Mom. Mom was also watching me. I couldn't see her. I didn’t even know she was around… Until she was nearly on top of me. Her shrill call was no warning. She swooped low as she called and was right over my head. I jumped back, heart racing and excited. Mom was at the top of the light pole, in sight of the tree, watching her baby relaxing, well hidden amongst the lemons. While I stared in awe at her kiddo, she was giving me the stink eye.
Part of “birding” or becoming a “birder” are these moments. Where you learn through experience. This is when and how I learned about Kestrels, how they leave the nest and how adaptive this species is. You don’t need to know it ALL to be a birder, you learn along the way. You learn, very fast, as was my case. Watch from a distance, safely. Do not encroach on their space. Do not look in their nests (without binoculars, a scope or the like). You don’t like someone peering in your window, do you? Give them the same kind of space you would expect if you were in your home or just brought home your new baby. If you do that, you just may be lucky enough to watch many seasons of baby kestrels in your own backyard.
We’ve seen two clutches of kestrels leave the nest. It’s so delightful to watch them waiting on Mom and Dad to bring dinner. Siblings bickering and bobbing about. Learning how to fly or...cling to the side of a house for dear life until you discover you can just float down to the ground. They have provided hours of enjoyment and enlightenment. Now, if I’m out somewhere, and I hear that shrill kestrel call, I pause and know, Mom is watching me. Isn’t she always?
If you want to know more about Kestrels, who are probably watching you right now, go to: https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/american-kestrel
Important note: While Kestrels have adapted to living amongst us, we can still cause great harm to them. Unintentionally. Using ingestible poisons to rid your home of rats or other pests, dinner for the kestrel, will poison them. While you can’t put up feeders for kestrels, you can put up nesting boxes. Keep in mind, if you attract songbirds and birds of prey to your yard, the bird of prey will...prey. This is nature. Mother Nature. Watching…
Hope you enjoyed this recounting of my kestrel experience. Have questions or comments? Please write to firstname.lastname@example.org