“Colorful, noisy, brash” is how Bitterroot Valley author and educator Kate Davis describes the subject of her latest collaboration with Colorado photographer Rob Palmer. The American Kestrel, Davis tells us, is the smallest falcon in North America, and easily recognizable by its colorful plumage and hovering flight posture while seeking prey. About the size of a robin or a Killdeer, the kestrel is a savvy hunter that feeds upon a variety of insects and small vertebrates and invertebrates.
The book offers hundreds of facts about kestrel behavior, encompassing habitat, hunting, mating, family life, migration, and the general health of the species.
Both Palmer and Davis contribute their incredible photographic skills to the work. Enormous patience and a keen eye for what makes a spectacular shot are the hallmark of these two artists. Pictures of kestrels in flight, tiny nestlings peeking out from an opening in a hollow tree, and birds returning from the hunt with prey nearly the size of their own bodies are just a few of the highlights.
The kestrel population has been declining in some parts of the country, and holding fast in others. Several factors are thought to be responsible for dwindling numbers, including environmental toxins, climate change and habitat destruction. Working in its favor is the kestrel’s ability to adapt to the human landscape, taking up residence under bridge spans, in the eaves of buildings and inhabiting nesting boxes built for other species.
In the book’s last chapter, Davis encourages readers to become citizen scientists and notes that volunteers and hobbyists have contributed their observations to organized research and monitoring programs. The book concludes with plans for building a kestrel-nesting box, and tips about where to place it (“Good luck!” writes the author).
Davis, founder of the nonprofit Raptors of the Rockies, has authored several previous works, including Falcons of North America, Raptors of the West and Raptors of the Rockies.
Palmer is an award-winning photographer, most noted for his photographs of raptors in flight. He was the principal photographer for Sky Hunters: The Passion of Falconry, and contributed to Falcons of North America, Prairie Owl, and On Feathered Wings: Birds in Flight.
– Judy Shafter
Published 2014 by Mountain Press, Missoula, MT, $18 softcover