In both 2011 (American Kestrels) and 2012 (Young Kestrels) a pair of American kestrels (Falco sparverius) that nest in one of our hay sheds (Modoc County CA) fledged four youngsters. Leonard and I always enjoy watching the aggressive juveniles as they perform aerial acrobatics and dramatic dives while learning to hunt and fend for themselves. With six kestrels overhead we certainly had quite a show in 2011 and 2012.
This year (2013) there was only one kestrel fledgling. We have no idea why. Last winter was unusually severe in our area and the summer was particularly arid. Perhaps weather conditions impacted the kestrels’ food supply of insects, rodents, small mammals and small birds and thus their ability to raise a large brood. American kestrels often return to the same nesting site year after year and retain partners. Maybe, if our pair has remained constant over several years, they are less capable, for any of several reasons, to raise a large family. Or a predator (I am thinking a large snake.) may have gotten into the nest. I guess we will never know why there was only one young kestrel in 2013.
Depending on the weather and food suply, kestrels (also called sparrow hawks) will be visible perching on the nearby telephone wires and fenceposts throughout the winter. We will also see kestrels, the smallest of the true falcons, hovering over fields or soaring in place against strong winds as they search for food this winter. We hope our hay shed attracts another kestrel pair to raise their family next season.
This American kestrel lacks the extensive cinnamon wash on the breast indicative of an adult male and, like juveniles, has heavy streaking over most of the breast, leading me to believe our kestrel parents fledged a male this season. Although the parents were nearby, this youngster had no intention of sharing his meal of a bird, most likely a young California quail.