Last summer, a family of kestrels took up temporary residence in my back yard. They were here for about two weeks. I wondered what was making that sound as it didn’t sound like the chattering starlings which are usually here so I went to look and discovered the starlings and finches were gone. The chirping was coming from the mulberry tree. When I looked for them, I found birds that I had never seen roosting here. I wasn’t sure what they were so I took some photos and looked them up. I was pleasantly surprised to discover: kestrels!
Even though there are only three kestrels in this photo, their parents are higher up in the tree hidden by the big mulberry leaves.
When I took a look in the mulberry tree without my camera, I only saw one. Came back a few minutes later with my camera and a ladder which I placed 20+ feet away from the trunk of the tree. They are as curious about me as I am of them. I kept my distance away from them since they are wild animals, but it is my yard!
After a few days they stopped chirping at me when I’m out doing yard chores… they have deduced I am not going to hurt them! At any time, especially when all five of them are here, they might raise a raucous when a scrub jay shows up or they spot bigger birds that soar way up above!
I tried not to disturb them but now I am spotted. Hoped they would not fly away and they didn’t!
I watched the parents and the babies as they were taught where to find food. They hopped and climbed up the tree trunk, fence and wall of the shed and often one or some of them liked to perch on the lattice on my back fence.
The parent on the left and one fledgling that still didn’t fly more than 20 or 30 feet by the end of the first week here. The other two did a lot more flying than this one. This fledgling kept chirping and the parent said nothing. When the fledgling looked away he stop chirping. Then he would look at his parent and start chirping again.
Then they both saw something and moved their wings back a bit as they both starting chirping. I thought they were going to both take off. Guess which one didn’t?
The youngster bails on his parent and didn’t lift off, instead he started chirping again. He continued to chirp and move back and forth on top of the lattice while his family was calling to him from the roof of the shed.
Finally, he decides that since the rest of the family is together on the shed roof, he’s going to join them. The family on the shed roof kept coming to the roof’s edge and chirping at him – I don’t know if they were calling him a sissy, or encouraging him to join them for a feast of spiders, flies and other bugs up there.
A few days later he was out flying with both parents – I saw them land on the shed roof together. The other two youngsters had been having a great time flying and dive bombing the airspace over my property and exploring the area. Over the rest of the summer, I spotted kestrels in the area but haven’t seen them in my yard.
I don’t use chemical pesticides or poisons to rid my yard of bugs and rodents and was happy to see them live here for a few weeks eating bugs that like to eat my garden. They may have visited when I’m not here or too busy to notice. Shortly after they left, the starlings, finches and humming birds returned.
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© 2013 afroditi katsikis
To see more information about American Kestrels visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology
- American Kestrel, the Sparrow Hawk (michpics.wordpress.com)
- Bird Feeders! (ontheflyattracyaviary.wordpress.com)
- Bird Watching At Feeders (naturalhistorywanderings.com)
- YardMap: a birds-eye-view of citizen science efforts (brittanyromano.wordpress.com)
- Counting Birds (minnesotagrowing.wordpress.com)
- Feisty starlings say goodbye to Scotland for the winter with rude formation (dailyrecord.co.uk)
- Birds of prey seize the day in battle with gulls (star-telegram.com)