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An American Kestrel Eats Prey Near Whitby, Ontario

Posted by on March 11, 2013

An American Kestrel eats a mouse on a hydro line in Whitby - Ontario

An American Kestrel Eats A Mouse On The High Wire

On an extremely warm and sunny day in early March, Bob and I drove east to Whitby, in Ontario, for a walk at the various conservation areas found in that area.  Along the roadway, Victoria Street West, we spotted two American Kestrels (Falco sparverius) perched side by side on the telephone wire, and one, quite obviously, was devouring a recent catch.

Photo of two American Kestrels on a power line in Whitby - Ontario

Photo of a colorful American Kestrel sitting on a power line in Whitby - Ontario

American Kestrels are about the size and shape of a Mourning Dove, and in fact, as we drove along, I thought at first that is what I was seeing.  But with the aid of my binoculars, I soon saw their larger, rounded heads that clued me in, and of course their coloring.

Photo of a colorful American Kestrel sitting on a power line in Whitby - Ontario

We had seen two kestrels in the same area a week earlier, so were on the lookout as we drove through the region.  I think they must make their home, or at least their hunting ground, in the field adjacent to the highway there.  American Kestrels prefer open country with few trees and low vegetation.

Photo of two American Kestrels on a power line in Whitby - Ontario

American Kestrels are North America’s  smallest  falcons, packing a predator’s fierce intensity into their little bodies.  These birds are often referred to as Sparrow Hawks.

Photo of an American Kestrel eating a mouse on a power line in Whitby - Ontario

Photo of an American Kestrel eating a mouse on a power line in Whitby - Ontario

We observed this kestrel as it ripped pieces from its prey, and were surprised just  how long it worked at tearing apart its kill.

Photo of an American Kestrel eating a mouse on a power line in Whitby - Ontario

American Kestrel - Whitby - 12

For a good half hour, the kestrel tore piece after piece from the little animal’s body, and at times, we could see little bits of fur being carried off on the wind.

In this video that Bob filmed, you get a chance to watch firsthand the kestrel tearing into its prey.

Photo of a colorful American Kestrel sitting on a power line in Whitby - Ontario

American Kestrels can be recognized by their conspicuous black face markings, the rusty-red feathers of their backs and tails, and, in the males, a distinctly slate blue colour on the wings and crown of the head.

Photo of an American Kestrel eating a mouse on a power line in Whitby - Ontario

Although we kept our distance, the kestrels soon became aware of our presence.

American Kestrel - Whitby - 11

About a 100 feet further along the street, a hawk was perched on a lamp standard.  As we watched, it dove down into the long grass of the field and pounced on some other creature.  The kestrels took notice of the activity thereabouts, and one of them quickly departed for another location across the meadow.

Photo of an American Kestrel sitting on a bush in Whitby, Ontario

Hovering above a tiny bush, the kestrel soon found purchase and took up its new resting spot.

Photo of an American Kestrel holding a mouse in its peak in Whitby - Ontario

An American Kestrel prepares to take flight with a mouse in its peak

Finally, the second falcon abandoned its feasting and flew over to join the other, being careful to securely transport its prey.

As you see in Bob’s second video, the kestrel was quite adept at grasping its prey in its talons.

Photo of an American Kestrel in flight holding a mouse in its peak.

An American Kestrel flies through the sky with a mouse dangling from its claws, in Whitby - Ontario

The dead prey dangled heavily below as the kestrel flew across to join its mate.  I wondered if it would share its spoils.

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2 Responses to An American Kestrel Eats Prey Near Whitby, Ontario

  1. Bonnie

    I was wondering the same thing as I was reading and watching the videos. I guess it is every hawk for him/her self.

    • frametoframe

      I think so, Bonnie. At one point, the second kestrel approached the one with the rodent, and was promptly discouraged from trying to get some of the food.

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