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Falcon’s falcons

Since this is the town of Falcon, perhaps we should discuss the most common falcon in this area. A few years ago, there were about three different species of falcons that could be seen around or in this area. However, with all the development, the only one that you are likely to see is the American Kestrel, formerly known as the Sparrowhawk.This beautiful raptor is easily seen in the area by driving along Highway 24 or any of the country roads and watching the power lines. You can find them in virtually all open and semi-open habitats and occasionally you’ll spot one in town. Let’s take a look at this adaptive little falcon.The kestrel is a diminutive bird, so small that you may have seen several of them without realizing they were birds of prey. At only nine inches long, they are smaller than a robin; yet, they still have all the characteristics of a raptor: long talons, a sharp hooked beak and a design that is built for the role of predator. Its size would seem to be a disadvantage in hunting, and, although grasshoppers, mice and lizards are a kestrel’s preferred dinner item, he is known to bring down birds that are the same size or larger. Kestrels have been observed bringing down adult doves and quail. During times when the easily caught insects and mice are perhaps not easily found, small birds, amphibians and even crayfish figure in his diet. This rather broad range of prey items, small in size, and a tolerance of people allows the kestrel to survive and even flourish in the onslaught of development.Let’s take a look at the physical appearance of the kestrel. Long a favorite of birders for their exquisite coloring, this bird is a blend of perfectly harmonious color and proportion. Except for cold days when the bird is puffed up against the chill, the kestrel has a sleek, fast-looking build. The male has a soft, light buff underside interspersed with black spots; he has a rich chestnut back, which is also spotted; a long tail that has a black stripe across the end; and steely blue-grey and black wings. The top of his head is grey, while his face is white and accentuated by two black vertical stripes on his cheeks, one of which is directly below his eye; thus, giving him a “tear-streak”, and adding a slightly sad appearance to his face.The female, while not as brightly colored, is certainly not the male’s inferior in beauty, as she possesses a feminine touch to her markings rivaled by very few other birds. Her wings are the same color as her back, which is several shades darker than the male, and her underside is streaked rather than spotted. She has an even more complex patterning of spots. Her coloring seems almost to possess more “taste” in that the male is quite straightforward in his coloring, while the female’s livery takes more attention and investigation to fully understand the true complexities and subtleties of her plumage.Like bluebirds, these birds can benefit from nesting boxes. Be aware that if you do, the small birds in your yard may forsake the area. To encourage the kestrels may not be the thing for a backyard birdwatcher with feeders and everything else, but if you are a gardener or farmer, these birds would be very beneficial for your garden, considering their insect eating habits.Next time you are driving along and see a little bird sitting on the power lines, check (or have your passenger check) and see if it’s a kestrel.

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