Preening American Kestrel

I don’t often get a male kestrel to pose like this for me.


1/1000, f/7.1, ISO 640, Canon 7D, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

This is an older photo taken in December, 2010 at Farmington Bay WMA (I posted another shot of this bird some time ago but this one is new to my blog).

Winters are hard on birds at the refuge and this male’s tail feathers show some of the resulting wear and tear. Some of the barbs were separated from each other so he meticulously drew each feather through his bill to “re-zip” the hooks meant to hold them together. I wish I had a better look at his eye but in my view the pose makes up for that shortcoming and besides he likely had his nictating membrane closed anyway.

These colors are so vivid I want to be clear that I haven’t monkeyed with saturation or any other color adjustment during processing.

I miss this old snag perch! It was a favorite kestrel perch for years and I like its distinctive shape and weathered condition but sadly it’s gone now and natural perches like this are few and far between at Farmington. Recently my friend and raptor authority Jerry Liguori posted a lovely image on Facebook of a Short-eared Owl perched on this same snag at sunset in January of 2004. If you have the interest and you’re a FB user you can see it here.

As you’ll see the perch didn’t change much over the years until it (apparently) fell down.


20 comments to Preening American Kestrel

  • Laura Culley

    OK I’m WAY late on this one, but OH WOW! I’m continually amazed at how Kestrels (among other birds) can do the intricacy of their feathers. I mean, seriously! Those outside tail feathers knock my socks off! Added to that, no matter how hard I try, I cannot re-zip feathers as quickly and efficiently as the birds’ beak. Sigh…I’m reminded that I’m only human.

  • Barby Anderson

    What a fabulous shot Ron! I love Kestrels. There was one nearby with a family I am sure. He would zoom skimming over my shoulder in hot pursuit of a sparrow. He came to the yard over and over and I was becoming used to our close encounters. The color of his feathers were so striking. I have never seen such a bird catch so many sparrows that summer right in front of me, he could fly and dive like lightening. A true stealth predator. Hard for me to watch as I love all birds, but my Dad’s words rang true in my ear “Balance of nature Barby, balance of nature.”

  • LS Clemens

    One of my favorite birds. Thank you for sharing your amazing photographs. I look forward to each new posting.

  • Charlotte Norton

    Super shot Ron!


  • The kestel has a lot to preen himself about. Stunning image.
    And, as a non FB user I loved the owl too.
    I hope your day is pleasantly productive.

  • Thank you for all the kind comments, everyone. I’ve had an unusually busy day and it isn’t over yet so I don’t have time to respond to comments individually. But I wanted you to know that I appreciate everyone’s comments!

  • Stephen Clayson


    This poe makes him look like a turkey!


  • Interesting image and commentary. Yes, the tail feathers look a bit rough, but the colors are just brilliant. Thanks for posting!

  • Patty Chadwick

    That’s notca “pretty picture”, it’s an aazing one!!!! Love the fanned tail feathers and the super narrow perch….too bad it’s gone. Short-earred looks even more precariously perched on it…

  • Chris Sanborn

    What a great pose and interesting behavior you’ve captured — beautiful little Kestrel, even with his “shabby” tail feathers (shabby chic, maybe!). 😁

  • George Hollis

    I’ve been carrying around a raven feather I found in the San Gabriel Mountains north of LA for many years. What a wonder of evolution!

  • Susan Cartwright

    Beautiful shot! I love seeing/reading your blogs every morning. I have been introduced to many birds that I don’t see around here. Thank you.

  • Susan Stone

    That is one spectacular pose! As usual, I’m very happy to start my day with a Kestrel sighting.

  • Elmer Deloso

    Awesome shot! Are you sure it’s not a peacock? (just kidding)

  • Judy Gusick

    Wonderful, rich colors and really shows an aspect of the Kestrel one doesn’t see in photo’s. 🙂 Sooner or later the “old snags” have to come down.:( With luck, new ones form in the same area………

  • Zaphir Shamma

    Robust and rich colors along with the puffy chest and spread of the tail feathers more than make up for the eye. Great photo Ron 🙂

  • Marty K

    What a beauty! And yes, those tail feathers are a mess. Poor little guy. I can definitely see the difference between the befores and the afters, though. I guess he’s getting ready for his close-up, Mr. DeMille! 😉