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Kestrel Attack!

Updated: Sep 11, 2019

A male American Kestrel attempts to fly away with his heavy burden: a European Starling.


WARNING: If you are squeamish, I suggest you read no further...


It was a chilly evening on February 12th, 2019.

I had just finished tutoring algebra in the library, and began walking towards the SURC to get dinner. All of a sudden, I heard a horrific screech - a "sreeewhr!" call that stopped me short.

I rapidly scanned the trees and the snow, and soon spotted a medium-sized bird flapping its wings on the ground. Looking more closely, I noticed this bird was grappling with a smaller bird!

At first I thought the predator was an accipiter (like a Cooper's or Sharp-shinned Hawk), but when I drew nearer, I saw that it was a male American Kestrel.

The kestrel with a prey item nearly as big as himself!

He was pinning down a European Starling, who was frantically fluttering - trying to escape from the tiny raptor's vice-like talons.

As I drew nearer, the kestrel tried to fly away with his prey, but the starling was simply too heavy. The falcon flew up to a tree, and left the stunned songbird lying on the ground. The poor starling was panting, and hardly had the strength to move.

Faint falcon wing marks surround this bedraggled bird.

I quickly snapped some pictures with my phone, but soon realized that I may never have a photographic opportunity like this again. It was time to bring in the big guns (er, lens).

I walked/ran back to my room, grabbed my trusty Canon EOS 7D and Sigma 150-600mm lens, and zoomed back about 15 minutes later.

The kestrel was back on the ground, but this time the starling lay still. As the raptor feasted, I photographed.

Today, victory was with the predator.

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