Spar: American Kestrel

Spar is a male American Kestrel

A good samaritan brought Spar to CRC in June 2004, after the little bird simply flew up to the astonished person. Spar was a "hatch-year" bird (born that spring) when he arrived. We found him to be in good physical condition, but much too tame for a wild bird.

We believe that earlier some well-meaning but non-licensed people found Spar as a baby, raised him, and released him. Unfortunately, he had "imprinted" on people, which means he simply doesn't know that he's a falcon or even, perhaps, that he's a bird. He doesn't know how to hunt for himself and will instead go to people for food. This can be dangerous for both the people and for the bird.

As an imprint, Spar was deemed non-releasable and began the "taming"* process in July 2004. He took very well to the glove, and remains quite calm when out "on the fist" before audiences. Indeed, he seems to enjoy showing off. He is so very captivating, he makes our job of teaching about these birds quite easy.

American Kestrels are not only the smallest, but the most common falcon in the US; they are often seen hovering over fields by the sides of roads.

Like all falcons, they have extraordinary eyesight, which helps them hunt small rodents, insects, and even small birds efficiently. The American Kestrel's European cousin, the Common Kestrel, has been shown, in research studies, to respond to the ultraviolet part of the color spectrum. Using this ability, these birds can follow rodent's ultraviolet-tinted urine trails in the grass. At the end of the trail . . . there's lunch.
Our kestrel has not been tested for this characteristic. Many songbirds do see into the ultraviolet range, but so far, few raptors have been found to share that ability.

* Taming is the process of teaching a bird to stay perched on your gloved fist. The bird is fitted with special leather bracelets around the ankles, to which jesses, a swivel, and a leash are attached. This equipment keeps the bird from flying away or from injury if it should become agitated.

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