Red And Blue On Red And Blue – American Kestrel

This image was taken several years ago in early October at Farmington Bay.  I’ve always liked the color combinations in the shot.  The background is the deeply shaded Wasatch Mountains.  The reds are caused by the fall colors of scrub oak and other vegetation.


american kestrel 6796b ron dudley

 1/125, f/8, ISO 400, 500 f/4, 1.4 tc, natural light, not baited, set up or called in

It was overcast, with clearing to the west (behind me) so it was bright back there.  This kind of lighting often produces a horizontal catch light in the eye, rather than the more typical pinpoint catch light.  I often like that effect, as I do here.

I’ve seen noticeably fewer kestrels this winter and early spring than I have for many years.  I sure hope there’s nothing ominous going on…


23 comments to Red And Blue On Red And Blue – American Kestrel

  • Hi Ron,

    What a nice post again and again. Raptors have always been among my favorites. I’m birding since 50 years so far (I was 12 when I began to bird) and I do not remember having seen a so nice and detailed Kestrel in nature 😉 . It’s sure that I’m kidding but the photos have this amazing power of making us better nature watchers because we can see more details afterwhile. Not surprisingly, I agree with Kathleen about the decreasing of the Kestrel’s population in the north-eastern part of North America. In Quebec, the Kestrel was a more commonly seen bird 40 years ago. BTW, the decades 70 and 80 were apparently not a good time for our blue planet. When we consult the litterature, we often read ” Since the last 40 years, the “whatever bird or animal” population has declined by 60% or 70%”. And this is true anywhere around the world.

    More than ever we have to take care of the nature all around us and we must consider ourselves very lucky to be able to witness so great natural wonders only one step outside our front door.

    Thank you again.

  • Hopefully what you’re noticing is the effect of a hard winter, but Kestrel numbers have been significantly declining in the east for the last few decades, there was a lag on the west coast and then the same trend appeared. The middle region of North American is experiencing a decline as well, but the decline is not statistically significant yet,though considering they’re in decline everywhere else, it seems likely that it will become significant soon. The decline in NJ resulted in the bird being relisted as a threatened species.

    • Thanks very much, Kathleen. I’m aware of some of these stats and have been grateful to groups like Hawkwatch International – they have been working hard at putting up kestrel nesting boxes in this area for quite a while. I hope those boxes help.

  • Ron, I mis-spoke slightly. The “Florida sub-species” is the Southeastern American Kestrel, Falco sparverius paulus. It use to be widespread in the southeastern U.S. but is now rare in SC, GA and LA. The Florida population has declined over 80% over the last 40 years, due primarily to loss of habitat and pesticides.

    The general North American Kestrel population, Falco sparverius, appears to be in good shape and has increased over the years within its continental U.S. breeding area. Here in Florida, we see a lot of American Kestrels during migration but in May through July most of the birds are the Southeastern sub-species.

    Hope that clears things up!

  • Such a stunning bird. And yes, I too hope that there is nothing ominous going on. Would a delayed Spring have any impact?

    • Elephant’s Child, I’m hoping the problem is related to what you suggest. It may be that the extensive snow cover we had for most of the winter (prevents them from catching voles) caused more of them than usual to move south and that they will return in good numbers. Wally (comment below) says there’s a healthy number of migrant kestrels in Florida.

  • Amazing photo! I agree with how the eyes catch the light. The horizontal catch gives the bird more character.

  • Dick Harlow

    Excellent shot of one of my favorites!! Nicely done!! At one time I had a female on jesses and would fly her on occasion. Sad ending, fed her a mouse that had been poisoned and I didn’t know it.
    Our lake is finally opening up, but our shore is still ice bound and the Common Mergs and Scaup are too far out for me to take a shot, plus I’d be taking it into the sun!
    Shortly I’ll be out there taking my shots, BUT I still have to make my noodle support!

    • Dick, Losing that female kestrel that way must have been devastating. Finding a noodle to modify as a window support can be tricky this time of year – most stores don’t carry them until it warms up.

      • Dick Harlow

        Thanks Ron.
        However, by next month I should be able to find a noodle at our pool store.
        Have to set a date to open the pool anyway, and they may have started to stock up.

      • Dick Harlow

        Yes, it was devastating, but I blame myself for that one, since I was the one who gave the vole to her.
        She was living on frozen chicks and lab mice, and I thought a wild vole would be a treat.
        She had been fine with the chicks and lab mice, but was gone shortly after eating the vole. I’m guessing that the vole had poison in it, but I will never know for sure whether it was that or not. I will cherish the 2 years I had with her. At any rate, it is an experience I will never forget.
        By the way, how does one put an avitar beside his/her name?

  • Janice Webb

    That is just beautiful, she looks so sweet all softness and glowing with that glorius blue behind her.

  • Great photographic composition of this attractive little raptor, Ron. Regarding backgrounds, I am often torn between extreme bokeh on the one hand and slightly out of focus backgrounds on the other. The former leads to outstanding portraits such as yours here. The latter gives an environmental context. Maybe we flatlanders just crave mountain views.

  • Beautiful, Ron! You’re right about the catch light and that subtle tie-in of similar colors in the background really enhances the photograph.
    Hope your Kestrel population is okay. Here in Florida, we have a healthy group of migrants this year. There is a Florida sub-species which may be in trouble, however. Once the migrants clear out around May, I’ll be out looking for local birds and hope to find a lot of nesting activity!

    • Wally, I’m happy to report that I did see some kestrels in the west desert yesterday. Maybe what I’m observing is very local. I had no idea there was a Florida sub-species of the kestrel.

  • Charlotte Norton

    How wonderful and thanks for the tip!