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March 5, 2010

American Kestrel in my Front Yard

Last Saturday was a beautiful day! The sun was shining brightly and when I went on my run after completing a PLT workshop that afternoon, I was able to go in shorts and a t-shirt. Yes, it was indeed February.

As I was drinking some water, resting, and cooling out on my front porch, a swarm of LBB's (little brown birds) was flying down my street. As they got closer, weaving in and out of houses and around trees, I noticed a larger bird chasing them. Usually this happens in the spring time when the magpies are wreaking havoc on the other neighborhood birds, but this time it was an American Kestrel.

Soon, the Kestrel caught one of the LBB's. It was an amazing and a little disturbing site to watch the Kestrel carry the bird off. The LBB squawked and squealed for about 10 seconds and then it was gone. The Kestrel landed on my neighbor's roof, where it plucked the feathers from the bird and devoured it in less than two minutes.

According to the Utah Department of Wildlife Resources, American Kestrels are common throughout all of Utah. "Nests are made in natural holes in trees, abandoned woodpecker holes, cliffs, and nest-boxes. Usually four or five eggs are laid and incubated, mainly by female, for 29 to 31 days. Young are tended by both parents and leave the nest about 29 to 31 days after hatching. Young may stay with the parents for an additional four weeks or more. If a clutch is lost, a pair will readily lay a replacement clutch. In summer, this hawk feeds mainly on insects, especially grasshoppers and crickets, and small vertebrates. During the winter, its foods are mainly birds and mice. American kestrels often hover while foraging, and are frequently seen using this technique along highways."

Sometimes I think we believe we need to go out deep into the wild mountains or deserts to see these kinds of events and interactions, but even when living in downtown Salt Lake City, there is plenty of nature to see! Sometimes you can find it when you're looking for it, and sometimes it happens right in front of you. We just have to pay attention.

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