Recently, I went for a brisk walk on a freezing but clear winter day along Lake Ontario at Lakeside Park in Mississauga. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of some more interesting ducks like the Goldeneye, Scaup and Buffleheads I had seen her earlier in the winter. I walked towards shore then towards the east to get a closer look at a pair of circling Red Tailed hawks. As I passed the end of the Off Leash Dog Exercise area, I noticed a bird sitting on top of a young-ish tree in a slightly more naturalized area. But what kind of bird was it?
As you can see from this first photo, it was just slightly larger than a robin. Given the cold temperatures it could even be a very puffed up robin. But the colours didn’t look right, and I couldn’t understand why a robin would perch in such an exposed spot. Operating under the hope that it might be something better, I started shooting photos.
As I got closer I realized with pleasure that this was actually a raptor. The sun was still glaring in my eyes, so I couldn’t see the birds colouring clearly. Unfortunately, I forgot even my basic birding skills and crashed too close (25 feet) to its tree. The bird flew. And then I immediately knew.
The shape of the wings and the type of flight meant it was a kestrel.
A kestrel is the smallest falcon in Ontario. However, these tiny fighters used to be called Sparrow Hawks, so I know some people think of them as hawks.
The sharply pointed wings and sleek streamlined shape were obvious as it glided in to land half way up a mighty poplar near a field. Rather than risk it wasting more energy on me on such a cold afternoon, I retraced my steps to the shore and took photos of icicles from the surf.
Once home, I looked at my photos and was pleased to confirm it was a female kestrel. The males have slate coloured wings; the females’ wings are brown.
Since most of the ducks I saw were mallards or very distant Buffleheads, Scaup and Goldeneyes, it was great to see something unexpected. I hope her hunting was also successful!
Have you seen a kestrel sitting on a telephone wire or hovering over a farmer’s field? Please share your experiences with a comment.