A Shredder (American Kestrel) at Riverlands

January 22, 2014

I photographed this American kestrel at Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary in late-December. Charlie Deutsch, Wildlife Biologist, and I watched as the little female dropped from a tree and snatched up a vole or mouse. By the time I repositioned my camera, the tiny predator had already shredded its meal and swallowed it in three gulps. I was still happy to get a nice image of the female because I only had a male kestrel in my files.

I was actually in search of a gray ghost (male northern harrier) that day at Riverlands, and I even got a crack at one as it hovered into the wind in front of my lens. Unfortunately, my reflexes weren’t up to par that afternoon and I missed the shot! The subsequent encounter with the cooperative kestrel was the perfect balm for my wounded confidence. Charlie first noticed the bird in a tree and it was only a few seconds before it swooped down and landed at our feet. It was almost dark but the light was quite nice as you can see from the image.

I’ve attached an image of a male kestrel from Forest Park so you can check out the differences in pattern and color between the sexes. Kestrels are just beautiful, with colors ranging from rusty orange to slate blue. My friend Lexis calls the black marks on their faces “War Paint!” I love the polka-dots on the chest of the male. What an awesome bird!

Kestrels are also fierce. I would hate to be a small critter within sight of one of these scrappy little raptors. Kestrels are not interested in taking prisoners. The featured bird in this edition ate the rodent so fast that Charlie and I never had a chance to identify its helpless victim.


Kestrels and harriers aren’t the only species you can see at Riverlands. The trumpeter swan count is nearing 1000 at this writing and people are coming from all over the Midwest to see the giant waterfowl. I’ve attached an image of one, bathed in the rose light of sunrise, that I made a few days ago.


I hope the image inspires you to take a road trip to Riverlands to see the amazing sight for yourself. Riverlands is easy to find. Just Google “Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary” for directions. Don’t forget to stop at the Audubon Center and say “Hi” to Patty, Debra, and the rest of the gang. You won’t find a better nature center staff anywhere.

Thanks for looking,

Danny Brown

Email me at:  NatureFrames@Rocketmail.Com

8 comments on “A Shredder (American Kestrel) at Riverlands”

  1. That’s an impressive pair. With a fierce bird like that at least the end is quick for the rodent in its circle of life.

    • Never thought about that Lyle. Not always quick in the natural world so this is a good example. Take care.

  2. Making a roadtrip to Riverlands will be a bit of a challenge for me, from India, but I enjoyed the photograph and the account of the female Kestrel as much as I enjoyed watching the male with you in Forest Park, some time ago. I didn’t know what fierce predators they are….I have not seen one eating its prey, and after reading your account…I’m not sure if I want to!

  3. I love the “war paint” analogy. They are definitely a stunning bird to observe with their markings and coloration. It is great to see both a male and female. Thanks for sharing with us, DB. I’m hoping to get to Riverlands this weekend and see those trumpeter swans!

  4. I have never seen a American Kestrel up close. What a formidable adversary. I especially love their markings. I also loved the shot of the trumpeter swan. I am going to try to get to the Riverlands this weekend. Thanks for sharing.


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