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American Kestrel Memories

Did you enjoy Clay Sutton’s article “Killy Killy No More” in the most recent issue of Birding as much as I did?! Some of the information he shares about kestrel declines in the mid-Atlantic and the reasons behind them are discouraging. The article certainly carries a nostalgic, yet somber tone throughout. I really appreciated Clay’s profound Kestrel memoirs and historical perspective and it motivates me to want to share my own Kestrel memories and to work for kestrel conservation.

Soon after I had become addicted to birding, my birder father-in-law and birding mentor determined to expand my experience and life list rapidly with a day-long road trip from Nampa, Idaho through the Owyhee Mountains to Malheur NWR in Oregon. As we made our way through that expansive desert we stopped for every single bird. I vividly recall drinking in my first spotting scope view of an American Kestrel pair on a powerline. I couldn’t get enough. How had I been missing such beauty all of my life up to that point? The slaty blue and rusty colored wings and back! That fierce, yet adorable falcon face! I was smitten.

A birding friend of mine, Michael Wiegand, who lives near the old mining ghost-town of Pearl, Idaho has American Kestrels nesting at his veritable birding oasis almost every year. He shared one of his Kestrel stories with me called “The Lonely Kestrel Saga”.

What are your American Kestrel stories and memorable experiences? Please share them with us in the comments. If you’ve written about them online elsewhere, please don’t hesitate to include a link.

Clay Sutton’s saddest statement for me was “Many of my kestrel memories now seem so long ago.”  Let our collective fondness serve as an impetus for us to act for the American Kestrel…so that future generations also enjoy having wonderful experiences with this awesome little falcon.

American Kestrel photo by Mia McPherson – used with permission

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Robert Mortensen

Robert Mortensen

Robert is most widely known as the host of, a multi-author blog sharing enthusiasm for birds and birding. He is also the ABA's Bird of the Year program coordinator. Robert began birding in the summer of 2004 when his father-in-law handed him a pair of binoculars to go on a Sunday afternoon walk at Deer Flat Wildlife Refuge in Idaho. Birding was an instant addiction. Married to Jessica since 1999, they have four children that keep them hopping. They live in Bountiful, Utah adjacent to spectacular birding at parks and refuges on the eastern shore of the Great Salt Lake. Robert earned his degree in Construction Management from Brigham Young University and somehow fits his construction career around his birding. He is a "well-rounded nerd" who enjoys adventures with his family, serving in his church and Boy Scouts of America, family history, music, and an avid college football fan. Robert plays clarinet and saxophone and enjoys singing too. For question about the Bird of the Year program, you can reach Robert at [email protected]
Robert Mortensen

Latest posts by Robert Mortensen (see all)

  • Ted Floyd

    I didn’t “officially” add American Kestrel to my life list until August 7, 1982–in an idyllic rural setting much like something out of Clay Sutton’s evocative “Killy Killy No More.”

    But I’d seen kestrels earlier. It’s just that I couldn’t bring myself to believe it was possible. In junior high school, in the summers of 1981 and 1982, I was banished to soccer camp on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh, in a busy commercial district in the city. And while I was busy not paying attention to the coach, I was fascinated by the sleek, orange, long-tailed birds that flew about high overhead and gave shrill cries.

    The best I could figure is, They were kestrels. But that was impossible. Kestrels are raptors; indeed, they are falcons, those noblest of raptors. Surely, I kept telling myself, there weren’t falcons right in the city.

    Regardless, they were wonderful, whatever they were. They were apparitions, beautiful and otherworldly. And some day, I’d even figure out what they were! Could they really be kestrels?…Nah, not possible, I kept telling myself.

    That tale of mine–as quaint and naive as it is–serves as an important reminder to me. As birders, we’re at our best when we regard all birds, every bird–even a commoner like the American Kestrel–as wonderful, as otherworldly, as impossibly beautiful. They’re gifts, they’re blessings–all of them, and the capacity to realize that is the most wonderful thing about birding.

  • I was able to watch a mated pair hunt and fly around together in Puerto Rico for a week. It was the first real close looks at the bird I had at the time and was a wonderful experience watching them.

  • Interesting post from Jim McCormac – 2nd half is about the American Kestrel –

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