American Kestrels

By Dan Weisz

While American Kestrels are not common in the foothills, they are common in flatter areas and more open deserts.  They are the most common falcon in Arizona and in North America.

Driving along Lambert Lane in Oro Valley, I spotted a Kestrel atop a telephone pole.  I stopped to take a picture and out of the corner of my eye saw a flurry of activity.  The same (?) kestrel then landed on the wire a few feet east of the pole.  This female (see her brown wings and the streaking on her breast) did not appear to be hunting.  She was alert and looking at something towards the east.

She again flew for a bit and landed next to another Kestrel, a male- you can see his blue-gray wings.  Also note the differences in the tails of the two birds.  I drove the car around to the other side of the road to get a better angle at what was happening.  They seemed to be checking each other out. Note the “hackles” on their necks are raised.  Something is going on here.

All of a sudden, she bowed down and lifted her tail, and the male tucked his tail under, flaring it a bit.

She then spread her tail even more and began holding her wings out as the male spread his wings and put a foot out.

She really spread her tail feathers as did the male.  The wings begin to blur- I had not anticipated flight and was shooting at the relatively “slow” speed of 1/500th of a second- apparently much too slow of a shutter speed to stop the action.

Bam!!  She’s hanging on to the wire with one toe as she strikes the male.

And the male is on his back straddling the wire as she attacks.

She’s barely balanced on the wire as the male falls backwards and then flies off.  Was this courtship?  Territorial dispute?  A new male making a move on a female who was already spoken for and not interested?  I’m not sure but it was pretty exciting.

Afterwards, she is settled down again and began looking around.

Far down the line the male regroups.

Then casually lifts one foot up as if to say “Nothing going on here.  I’m good."

The male then flies off and the female turns around to again begin hunting.  What an afternoon.