by Marilyn and Keith Davis

"Feathers in the Air"

American Kestrel

        The next time you find yourself with a few extra minutes in the morning hours, you might want to go outdoors around 8:00 and spend some time looking for birds. When a body is least expecting it . . . it’s always possible to find a pleasant bird surprise.

kestrel        We were near the old Jacob Hamblin Home by the Santa Clara River looking for the Vermilion Flycatcher we were told was there. Now birds never seem to stay in the same place for long, but it might be in the area, so we looked and looked. About a quarter of a mile of this river still had willows and trees, even after the many recent floods through the area. Today the river was running calm, but dotted with Green-winged Teal, Mallard and Ruddy Ducks. There were hundreds of Red-winged Blackbirds, Brewer Blackbirds, and Starlings flocking through the skies, settling in the trees, on the ground, and back up in the skies. The bushes were filled with strange looking feathered fruits that happened to be White-crowned and House Sparrows, Juncos, and House Finches. We saw Rough-legged, and Red-tailed Hawks playing hide-and-seek in the tops of the trees. This indeed was rich habitat for bird life.

        We found a deluxe poultry pen filled with a variety of lovely birds set between the river and a large alfalfa field. We pulled over to watch the birds and noticed feathers . . . feathers floating through the air just above us. We followed the feathers up . . . and there on top of an electric power pole was an American Kestrel plucking feathers from his morning catch, preparing it for dinner. Kestrels feed on insects, reptiles, and small mammals. In winter, they will eat smaller birds. They are the smallest and most common of our falcons. You will see them sitting on a power pole or it’s wire searching the area until they find a suitable meal, and then they take off flying, hover in mid air over the prey, and then drop sharply for a strike. When you see a bird the size of a Robin with double black stripes on a white face you’ll know it’s an American Kestrel. If you take the time outdoors looking, you are bound to find many surprises in the bird world.

        Bonnie Head is the artist of the American Kestrel painted with colored pencils. For more information about the Kestrel, other birds, or upcoming activities of the Red Cliffs Audubon, call 435 673-0996.

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