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Kestrel Joy

Monday, January 13, 2020


Facebook...it's where so much happens. Everyone's got a cellphone, everyone has access to everyone else, and little waifs like this American kestrel can be the beneficiaries. 
My friend Anastasia and her kids saw this little kestrel standing by the roadside in Barlow, Ohio. 

When they stopped the car and got out, the kestrel ran and fluttered, but he (see the blue wings?) couldn't get altitude. Something was wrong, something was hurt. 



They had the sense and courage to pursue the bird and capture him, and they took him home in a box. I say this about courage because it is pretty rare. Most people are afraid to touch birds, especially ones with a lot of pointy bits. We have been so inculcated since early childhood by the dictum never to touch a bird that I think a lot of Americans get phobic about it. Not the Yost family!

When Anastasia got him home, the kestrel managed to get out of the box and crouched on their kitchen table for another photo. At this point I had a bunch of messages from Anastasia. I set about arranging for the bird's transport to the Ohio Wildlife Center in Columbus, and also telling her how best to contain and feed the little guy. 


Understandably, Anastasia was afraid of doing the wrong thing, so she and her husband and their kids all piled in the car and brought him to me that night of December 8, 2019. I was moved by their dedication to the best outcome for this bird. As soon as I laid eyes on him, I understood completely. I would have driven 45 minutes one way to save him, too. 

While I waited for him to arrive, I prepared a pet carrier, got out my supplies, and snipped a bit of raw lean pork chop (half my dinner) into little strips. It was what I had, fresh that evening, with no warning whatsoever, and it would have to do until I could get some proper food. 

First, to examine him, and see if I could figure out what was wrong. He took my breath away. He reminded me of a parrot--the intelligence in his eyes, the shape of his square head; the way he lay in my glove...and well he should. Falcons are taxonomically closer to parrots than they are to hawks! This news is a few years old, but if you don't travel in ornithological circles you may not have heard it.  It all makes sense--the way they hold their prey in their feet and bring it up to their beaks to eat; their playful nature; even their brilliant coloration makes sense if you think of a kestrel as a kind of death parrot.



I couldn't find any broken bones, which made me suspect a coracoid fracture deep in his chest. He was holding his left wing a little out and low, which was consistent with that diagnosis. Cage rest wouldn't hurt him. I had contacted my Angel, Lee Hermandorfer, who told me her next trip to Columbus, where she works as a Respiratory Therapist at Childrens Hospital, would be in three days.

Well, OK. We'd take it. Until then, he was mine to pamper. I tucked him into the carrier, his perch well-padded, and gave him a dish of pork strips. I put him in a quiet, lit part of the newly cleaned basement. Checking back about 15 minutes later, he had decimated the pork and drunk some water.


His crop was looking nice and bulgy. I was so glad this little gentleman was warm, dry, and stuffed with food. I hoped he was comfortable. I was already in love.

What a mess he was! He spent much of his day trying to figure out how to get out of the carrier. I didn't want him trying to fly with a possible fracture, so he had to stay in it. He quickly splashed all the water out of his dish and pooped absolutely everywhere. 

By the first afternoon, I had procured a bag of frozen snap trapped white-footed mice, generously offered by my friend Chad Goode. How considerate! I usually keep them in my freezer, but I'd fed them all to busted owls and hawks and was out. I drove into town to meet Chad and grab the goods. I've never been so happy to be gifted a bag of small dead animals. 
As a little aside, Chad's mom Mary delivered both my kids. Best labor and delivery nurse anybody could ever cling to. And man, I clung to her. We bonded something fierce.

Kestrels won't thrive on plain raw meat. They need organ meat, fur or feathers for roughage, and bones for calcium. Whole foods are the way to go for little predators like this one. Thank you, Chad.

\ It occurs to me that, without Facebook, nobody would have known 
a. I had a kestrel or b. I needed frozen mice.
And nobody would have known to contact me without it, either. 
This social media sword cuts on many edges. 


The kestrel heartily approved of the mice and swiftly tore them into bits.

I changed his towels, papers and water daily. 







His onyx eyes radiated intelligence and an almost eerie calm composure. No frantic fluttering for this one! I was transfixed by his beauty, but I didn't want to stress him by staring at him, so I left him alone until it was time to feed, water or clean his carrier.


Finally, the day arrived when he'd get his lift to the Ohio Wildlife Center. 
I opened his carrier, intending to transfer him to a roomy cardboard carrier for the trip (the same one the barbed wire redtail had arrived home in). 

To my surprise, he flew right out the carrier door and landed on the bed. Once again, he was calm and peaceful, and clearly glad to be out of that small confined space. 

He took my breath away, again. Somehow he'd managed to keep himself scrupulously clean. I suspect he bathed several times daily, as his water dish was perpetually emptied. 



Oh, the glory of it, to have a male kestrel on one's bed. I wished I could let him stay for awhile, but it was time to meet Lee. Could he be any more sleek or beautiful? I prayed hard that he'd be releasable. It just wouldn't be right for him to have to be caged for the rest of his life.



December 11 was his last morning with me. Now, it was up to the veterinarians and experienced rehabilitators at Ohio Wildlife Center.  I was headed for Spain soon, and I was glad he'd have  far better housing and expert veterinary care while I was away. I'm so thankful for OWC!!




17 comments:

Did he have some things to say to you? Beautiful pics of a beautiful guy!

They are so gorgeous! Have you painted a kestrel yet?

What a stunning beauty he is. How lucky he found his way to you for a few days. I can't wait to hear how he is doing now. Love this story!

Kestrels are so striking! I love your photos of him on the bed, showing off the patterns in his tail feathers.

Kind and far-sighted of you to provide bed-and-pillow covers that so perfectly matched his colors ;-) Looking forward (I hope) to the follow-up post on his time in rehab.

I love it that the kestrel's coloring is so closely matched by your bed cover.

Pointy bits. Death parrot. Everything I could want, right here. What an absolutely beautiful, incredible, bird. Thank you for all those stunning looks into those eyes.

Death parrot, lol

He didn't bite?

He's so beautiful he takes my breath away! How could one not fall in love with this little Death Parrot? I can't wait to hear how he made out.

Posted by mimimanderly January 14, 2020 at 3:54 AM

My favorite part of a regular drive I take is when I see “my” kestrel sitting on his wire looking for one of those tasty mice. Such a joy! Love this story!! And heartened to hear of Facebook’s real purpose.

Wow, what a beauty! I've always loved kestrels and this one really showcases them! And interesting fact about their parrot relatives!

What a beautiful Kestrel! They are so uniquely colored - their relationship to parrots makes a lot sense! I love the steel-blue on their wings and head. They can be little tyrants of the sky - watched one tear apart a male cardinal at my backyard feeder one day.

He is beautiful. I wonder why, is there some extra camouflage in the colors, something that confuses prey or predator?

I too want to know how the death parrot did! What a beautiful creature -- that applies to the kestrel as well as to you and Anastasia. Thank you.

So appreciate the close-up photos. A beauty!! Could really get the parrot connection once you explained and shared those close-ups. Would be an excellent painting / bird for the card collection -- not that you're sitting around waiting for ideas! Thank you for this post. Like another commenter, I too observed "my" kestrel often. On a power line along the road and above a field in this rural neighborhood - perfect mouse huntig territory. Then one day just gone and haven't seen "my" kestrel since. I always wonder and still miss the sight. But I always look with hope in my heart. Kim in PA

I fell in love with these beauties on a banding trip with Earthwatch at the top of the Goshute Mountains in Utah back in the 80's. Those eyes were the most amazing of any of the raptors we caught. And their feathers were just majestic. Their legs are so small though, and I was terrified I would make a misstep with the band and break them. Never happened. I just fell in love.

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