Monday, 19 December 2016

American Kestrel (Crécerelle d'Amérique) on Cuba

     American Kestrel Falco sparverius is a small, colourful falcon with a wide distribution throughout the Americas. In North America it is familiar to every birder, although its numbers have diminished substantially in recent years.
    There is considerable variation in plumage in the various subspecies but nowhere have I found a greater contrast than on the island of Cuba. The literature refers to both colour morphs as being representative of the subspecies sparveroides but the difference is marked indeed.
     Most frequently we observed individuals such as the male shown below with a pale, almost bright, white belly, rufous mantle and white cheeks.



     However, in Marea del Portillo and the surrounding area we also saw birds displaying rich rufous underparts, a slate mantle, with the white cheek being absent.






     Sometimes these two colour morphs were seen within close range of each other, making for fascinating study.
     The diet of American Kestrel comprises mainly insects, with dragonflies and large orthopterans preferred. Many other insects are taken including beetles; also spiders, centipedes, scorpions, earthworms, small birds, amphibians and crustaceans. In some areas where lizards and rodents (especially in the winter in northern populations) form the greatest biomass of prey, these items comprise the mainstay of a kestrel's diet. 
     Dragonflies were abundant at the resort and kestrels were regularly seen hawking for them; their capture rate seemingly high. 







     This dark female was spotted atop a utility pole and it appeared to us that she was feeding on a small bird, although the angle of the picture does not show this.



     The pale male at the right seemed to be paying her no attention and we wondered whether they were paired off. However, when a second male showed up all hell broke loose and we were witness to a mid air battle royal.









      They sparred and grappled for at least five minutes, neither one initially seeming to gain the upper hand.  Their aerial acrobatics were quite breathtaking at times. When the resident male finally drove off the intruder he discovered that the female had left her perch! A Pyrrhic victory perhaps?
      Once again I am indebted to Franc Gorenc for allowing me to use his superb pictures to illustrate the daily life of the kestrels we witnessed during our stay on this enchanted isle.

21 comments:

  1. Bonjour cher ami,

    Merci pour ce joli reportage concernant la crécerelle... Les photos sont fantastiques particulièrement celle avec cette "dispute" en plein vol !...

    Un ❤️ pour franchir le petit pas vers 2017... Je vous souhaite une année simplement belle et sereine.
    Bisous ❄︎ ❄︎ ❄︎

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  2. WOW, absolutely fabulous shots!

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  3. Hi David

    Nice birds.
    Beautifully so together in the air.

    Groettie from Patricia.

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  4. Oh very beautiful pictures ! Amazing nuptial flyght
    You don't take more pictures David ?
    Have a good day.

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    1. Yes, I do, Nathalie, and I have to stop being so lazy. But Franc has the kind of equipment that you and Noushka have and is always willing to let me use his pictures, it has been the easiest thing to do. And there is no way that I could have taken these flight shots with my little Canon PowerShot. There are a few more posts from Cuba still to come. Next week Franc I will be leaving for five weeks so I will be back to my own devices,

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  5. Precioso el Falco sparverius, las fotos son fantásticas y las del vuelo enfrentados son increíbles. Me ha encantado el reportaje mi amigo David, un fuerte abrazo desde España.

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  6. Great write up David,very interesting facts,will look forward to seeing the variations when we go in Feb 2017,by the way,love the flight shots.
    outstanding post.
    John.

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    1. Yiu will have a fabulous time in Cuba, John. Aside from the stunning array of birds there is much more to discover there.

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  7. Interesting variation, had never seen that morph before.............

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  8. Hello David, awesome post on the Kestrels. They are beautiful birds. The sparring photos are just amazing, great captures. Happy Tuesday, have a great day! Merry Christmas to you and yours!

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  9. Amazing photos!
    These birds are such able flyers. Even better than the dragonflies, it looks. :)
    Now it's time to wish you Happy Holidays, with good music and good food perhaps, and a great new birding year 2017!

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  10. Wow. Really great photos. Flight pictures are awesome.

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  11. Some huge appearnce variations there David. A quick look on Wiki suggests 17 species and sub-species but doesn't give much information on migration. I assume that many of the kestrels on cuba are from a variety of more northern states of the USA and even from other Caribbean islands? I think a long term study is in order on this warm amd sunny island? Can I volunteer to be your (well) paid assistant?

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  12. Hi Both, really interesting post and love the action images with the Kestrels. Hope Miriam is fully recovered. Have a good Christmas, all the best. John

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  13. The photos of the Kestrals in action are just stunning. Interesting information, as well.

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  14. Stunning pictures of the aerial Kestrel battle!

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  15. Nice kestrel pics, a well known bird here, with growing population due to pigeons expansion. Rufous morph is new for me

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  16. Wonderful photos of the birds in flight, well done to your friend.
    Merry Christmas.

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  17. It's hard to believe that these variations are of the same species, David - quite remarkable! Franc has certainly excelled with these wonderful shots.

    I hope that Miriam has now recovered from her ills, and that you have a wonderful Christmas. Our love to you both - - - Richard and Lindsay

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