Nature,  Wildlife

Photographing the Hovering American Kestrel

The American Kestrel is the smallest falcon found in North America weighing at less than 6 ounces and only around 7-10 inches long.  It is also one of the most beatiful raptors and a great subject for bird photographers.

American Kestrel Take Off

Where are American Kestrels Found?

This small falcon is found throughout the Americas.  The American Kestrel migrates north to Canada and Alaska for breeding season and migrates back south in search of food during the winter months.  They are also found year round in most parts of the United States.

Kestrels are often found perched on telephone wires or trees around meadows and fields where they hunt.  These small raptors are quite wary.  When photographing the American Kestrel, it is important to have your gear ready to photograph.

Photographing the American Kestrel

When driving in Kestrel territory, I often keep my camera turned on and in my lap.  I also have the window open so I am ready to quickly photograph these birds.  When you stop your vehicle to photograph a Kestrel on a telephone line or a tree, you normally only have a few seconds to get the shot.

As the American Kestrel is a small raptor, a longer lens is normally needed.  However as Kestrels like to perch on telephone lines near the road, a good photograph can be taken from the road with a 300-400mm lens, if the photographer is prepared.

The photograph at the top of the blog was taken at 700mm with a moderate crop.  While the sequence of the hovering Kestrel below was also taken at 700mm and the photographs were heavily cropped in post processing.  The lighting was also much better in the first photograph.

Hovering Kestrels

The American Kestrel is also one of the few raptors that can hover in the air by rapidly beating its wings.  The Kestrel does this as a hunting technique to scan the ground for prey.  A Kestrel can also see ultraviolet light which also helps them to locate prey.

American Kestrel Hovering Sequence

Hovering American Kestrel

Hovering American Kestrel

Hovering American Kestrel

Hovering American Kestrel

Identification

American Kestels are beautiful birds.  The male Kestrel has bluish colored wings and one black bar on the orange tail feathers.  While the female American Kestrel have orange colored wings with several black bands on their orange tail feathers.

Written by Martin Belan

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