Male American Kestrel – Serendipity Happens!

Sometimes good things come to those who wait. And if you’re lucky it might even be a handsome little falcon.

Yesterday when I first pulled up in my pickup to the favorite fishing tree of the male Belted Kingfisher I’ve been photographing for a while (yes, I’m addicted…) he was already on his favorite perch and sitting close and pretty (usually he shows up later, he’s been quite punctual). It takes me a couple of minutes to get situated on the passenger side of my pickup and get all my gear arranged and the kingfisher watched me the entire time I was doing it so I thought I was about to have an exciting session with him.

But that little devil had other plans. I had just raised my lens raised toward him and quickly glanced down at my camera settings at the bottom of the viewfinder to see if they were appropriate for the situation and when I looked back up he was gone. Apparently to another county because I had no idea where he went.

So I settled down and waited. And waited and waited some more, on the chance he might return (he did, but not until much later). I’ll admit it, eventually I became bored and looked at my phone but while I was doing so my peripheral vision picked up a very slight movement fairly close in the tree in front of me and to my right. I was surprised because the kingfisher had never perched anywhere near that spot but I figured it must be him doing a little exploring. If you don’t actually see a bird fly into this tree it’s almost impossible to spot because the tree is so thickly jumbled with branches.

But when I finally spotted the source of the movement it wasn’t my fishing king.


1/4000, f/7.1, ISO 640, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

Instead it was this dapper little male American Kestrel and he’d actually (I couldn’t believe it) chosen a spot among the mass of twigs and branches at eye level where I had an almost completely clear view of him and I even liked the way some of the busy twigs framed him in the image. I also liked the background colors and the dappled light in much of the image. I enjoy the heck out of natural settings like this even when everything isn’t aesthetically perfect.

It was obvious that he was hunting from this perch because he was often scanning the ground just below him for prey (probably large insects at this location). He allowed me almost five minutes while he was on this perch before he eventually took off and hunted from a much higher perch on the same tree far above me – so high I almost felt like I was giving him a colonoscopy with my lens so I allowed him his dignity and went back to my phone (or something else, can’t remember what it was for sure).

Almost without exception when I’m attempting to photograph a raptor within (not on top of) a tree this thick with branches I have to attempt to maneuver my pickup to get a clear shot of my subject through all the obstructions. When I do the bird often flies off or sometimes moves to another spot (they feel safer with branches between us).

But this little guy picked a near-perfect spot on his own. Despite the stink-eye he was giving me I could have hugged him for that.




40 comments to Male American Kestrel – Serendipity Happens!

  • Debbie

    This little raptor is just too cute! I love the way he is looking at you.

  • Thanks for finally talking about >Male American Kestrel – Serendipity Happens!
    < Feathered Photography <Loved it!

  • Dave Brooks

    Congratulations Ron, way to wait them out! A very handsome little falcon indeed.

  • Judy Gusick

    Beautiful! Popular place for sure:)

  • Laura Culley

    LOL! Yes, the stink eye. I know it well and you captured it right on target 😉 But what a handsome young man! (NOTE: I did NOT say the “L” word!).
    Sorry, way far behind. I’m back at the Harrier (and oh what wonderfulness there was THERE!)

    • You probably get stink-eye more than any of us do, Laura. And I get my share!

      • Laura Culley

        Yeah, I’m just the help around here. Mariah and Skye would tell you that you just can’t get good help anymore! I get a LOT of stink eye from them. Jack only occasionally. He tries the sweet-talking route to get free food, but I’m wise to his antics 😉

  • Betty Sturdevant

    Very artistic presentation and I love your commentaries. I love to see your pictures everyday and so happy I was led to your blog. Keep up the great work.

  • Oooooh.
    I suspect you were smiling so broadly your face hurt.
    I would be. I am.

  • Joanne OBrien

    Thanks for the beautiful photo. I love these birds! They are awesome!

  • Alice Beckcom

    Love the stink eye!! If only the bird could talk!! Your narrative is quite interesting with the unexpected bird showing up in a perfect spot.

    We are so lucky that this kestrel happened to appear such that it gave you a perfect scene and shot of the bird.

    Thank you, Ron

  • Zaphir Shamma

    Bravo Ron!! Glad it all came together in the end. Beautiful bird and photo 🙂

  • Patty Chadwick

    How can such a ferocious killer be so cute!!!

  • Mikal Deese

    Ron, a word of advice: DO NOT TRY TO HUG A KESTREL! He’s little, he’s “cute”, but make no mistake he is a Mighty Falcon and knows it! And no kissing unless you know a good plastic surgeon. Lovely photo of a spirited (tiny) raptor!

    • Not to worry, Mikal! Years ago I “bird-sat” in imprinted and unreleasable Kestrel named Willie for about a week while his handler was out of town. Willie had the run of their house (literally) and he was unquestionably the boss. What I remember most is how he hated bare toes – go barefoot in the house and he would attack them viciously. Believe me, it got one’s attention!

  • Susan Stone

    When I read your tease line in the email, I was hoping you would be showing us an American Kestrel. He is gorgeous. The background and the branch pick up many of the colors in the bird, which makes the whole picture really come together. Between the facial expression and the position of the right-most toe, it looks as if he is impatient for you to be out of there… Thank you for starting my day with a big smile.

  • Marty K

    I see what you meant by yesterday’s reply! 🙂 He is quite the dapper gent, stink eye and all. Looking forward to seeing who you find in that tree today.

  • Melanie Wells

    I love this photo. There has been a significant decline in the Kestrel population in North Carolina over the past 25 years. They used to be a common sight perched on power lines along country roads and hunting in open areas of parks. I hope they are thriving in your area. Thank you for all you do, Ron, to show us the beauty and variety of North American birds.

    • Melanie, there has been a “significant decline” in kestrel numbers in much of the country in recent years. Thankfully around here they seem to still be doing reasonably well although anecdotally I’d say our numbers have dropped a bit too – despite all the help they’re getting from kestrel boxes.

    • Patty Chadwick

      Unfortunately I believe there’s been a significant decline in kestrils in most places..they are threatened by many things….all man made or man caused.

      • Dick Harlow

        You are absolutely correct Patty, at least here in Vermont they have decreased considerably!

        • Laura Culley

          Thankfully, we have a lot of Kestrels here around Kingman, AZ. But I’m still planning on installing a Kestrel nest box!

  • Arwen

    The stink eye is right! 🙂 I startled a barn owl the other morning and I’m not sure who jumped higher. Was standing under a tree during a walk w the husband. We’d been silent then he asked me something or I asked him. WHOOOSH right over my head. We now approach that part of the oath vewwwy vewwwy qwietly.

  • Very nice reward for your patience, indeed. And he was facing you, unobstructed with great light! We are seeing a lot of them now here in South Texas, mostly perched on utility wires. Finding a Kestrel (or Merlin) in a natural setting is a real bonus.

  • Dick Harlow

    Great shot Ron.
    Wonder if between you and the falcon, the Kingfisher felt he needed to go elsewhere?

    • Dick, there was also a flicker in that tree, on the backside of one of the limbs so I didn’t know it was there at first. It was more crowded in that vicinity than I thought it was! Birds really are hard to see in that tree.

  • Diane Bricmont

    Wow! It doesn’t get much better than that! Nicely done, Ron!