Monday, April 23, 2007

Flight identification

I had just planted the Hollyhocks , and was taking a little break in my backyard. I looked up, and saw this little bird high in the sky. It was gliding at a fairly rapid speed. I noticed that it had pointed wings and a long tail. Suddenly it stopped and hovered in one place, flapping it's wings to maintain it's position. That was the final clue I needed to identify it as an American Kestrel.

I'm not particularly good at identifying birds in flight. Gradually, I have picked up a tip or two that helps me out with some flight identifications. This small falcon, has a wing span of 22", and a long tail. It is also known for its ability to hover. Note the rufous tail and little black band at the edge. Looking at Sibley's, I think this is a male.
I am surprised that you can see this much detail on the bird. It was definitely out of range for my camera. It's amazing what a difference favorable lighting can make. If anyone would like to add some tips for identifying a Kestrel in flight, feel free to do so.


Cathy said...

Now that had to be a tough shot to get. Very nice. I've not seen a Kestrel yet this year.

Ruth said...

The Am Kestrel is such pretty bird. We have one hanging out in our area. I usually see (him) in a tree though.

Betsy True said...

According to "Hawks From Every Angle"(Jerry Ligouri), the orange tail with the broad black band is one field mark. Body paler than the wings another. What looks like a fine white line along the trailing edge of the wings is actually a series of white spots "that appear translucent when backlit." In "Hawks in Flight" (Pete Dunne), it says "Even from a considerable distance, the underparts appear very pale. The mustache and sideburn marks are visible from a distance as well." Your picture proves this, as I can see the dark on the head. Cool shot.

Jayne said...

Cool shot! Identifying birds in flight... pretty much am always lost in that regard. I can tell a hawk from a vulture, but that's about it!

Larry said...

Cathy-a lucky shot to get-all the sunshine made the distant shot show up with my 12x point and shoot.

Ruth-Kestrel numbers are declining around here-you are lucky to have one around.

Betsy-thanks for the additional i.d. info/tips.

Jayne-I'm not good at identifying birds in flight.-One step at a time is all you can do.-Going on a hawk watch helps though.

Anonymous said...

Some birds of prey are hard to id in flight! It is amazing how quickly they pass through! What is nice about the camera is that you have time to figure out what you saw!