Birds of the Western Slope September 30, 2015
By Evelyn Horn
Published Thursday, October 1, 2015 7:57 am
Photo by Dollar Photo American Kestrel
There's plenty of bird activity in our tall cottonwoods. We have our Lewis' woodpeckers as usual, with lots of display flights, drilling and calling. But no nesting behavior. More starlings than anyone would want. The top branches of the cottonwood are frequently taken over by a pair of kestrels. and so it is this year. Allen and I watch a brownish bird fly down into the pasture across the road and then return to the same area in the tree. It was about the size of a robin, rufous colored with a long tail.
I'm looking out our window at the Grand Mesa and watching the clouds of a thunderstorm. There's movement in the top of the east cottonwood ... watch ... our kestrel flies out over the pasture. I can make out blue wings, so it would be the male (the female is all rufous colored). He hovers! The wings move at the same speed as the wind blows: it's a controlled stall and always fascinates me!
Now he plunges down and rises with something ... I wonder what it is. But there's no chance to even guess, because he quickly flies back up into the tree. So I would surmise that he has young to feed. Both parents incubate for about 30 days, so I should get to see the young in a month or so. The primary diet of these birds is insects, mice and lizards. Throughout the literature, it's mentioned that they prey on sparrows, hence the common name of "sparrow hawk." I've never seen it happen (I'm still watching!).
I'm looking out of our dining room window at the Grand Mesa. It has been raining but not today. It's perfectly clear without a cloud in the sky. And suddenly there's a great commotion in the east cottonwood. Now I see the female kestrel fly from the tree and the dark face markings (called "whiskers") show very clearly. But there are more birds! I count four and they're all following the female. At last -- I'm seeing young kestrels. And I've only been watching for three months!