Thursday, August 20, 2015

Two Small Falcons

American Kestrel and Merlin

American Kestrel (Male)
Summertime brings two small falcons to our neighbourhoods.  The Kestrel and the Merlin are common hawks often seen perched on telephone wires or poles along roadsides.  Both are beautiful and fun to watch.  Falcons have slim and pointed wings and square tails and are usually very active.

American Kestrel (Juvenile)

The American Kestrel is smaller, about 27 cm long (10.5 inches).  It has a longer tail and two bold moustache stripes on white cheeks.  Its plumage is colourful, the male differing from the female with dark blue-gray on the wings.  Kestrels will sometimes hover over a field with rapidly beating wings as they search for prey.  At other times in a strong wind they can be seen soaring in place over a field.  They feed on insects, small mammals, and reptiles.

Merlin (Female)
The Merlin is larger and darker in colour (31 cm long [12 inches]).  When perched it looks more heavily-bodied and it does not have the moustache stripes.  Its breast is very striped.  The other falcon it might be confused with is the Peregrine Falcon but it is much larger and has a bold moustache stripe.

The Merlin is a very active bird and is often heard before it is seen.  Its kee-kee-kee can be heard from a great distance and the birds are very vocal when nesting.  Merlins feed on insects and other birds.  The ones shown above and below were feeding on dragonflies.  I have also seen them take a shorebird from a flock on the beach.

Merlin (Male)

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