Well, folks, today was the day! I have met little miss Sienna, the youngest of the American Kestrels at the University of Minnesota Raptor Center. She hatched in 2015 - the folks at the Raptor Center were able to determine that from the plumage she wore when she was discovered in Wabasha that year compared to that she had after molting. A beautiful female with big dark eyes.
I did not know that American Kestrels not only focus with their eyes in the same way we do but also with another focus point in their eyes that gives their vision sharper dimensions for hunting, called the fovea. This certainly must play into how they keep their heads still as they focus on one thing as their little bodies move.
Sienna has all her left primaries in place, but because she luckily managed to escape from something early in life with only the loss of her upper wing digit, there are no right primaries. Her striped tail, her sienna-brown contour feathers, her grey-blue crown, her streaky breast, her strong kestrel legs with their beige feathers are all there, though.
She is a little gourmet! Mike, her trainer, saves her choice pieces of liver to eat when raptor meals are prepared for the education birds. A delicious reward for a good bird who gets on the gram scale for her daily weigh in and gives education programs - yea, Sienna!
She molts in mid-summer and is a little more vocal during the regular spring breeding season, being an education bird instead of a wild mother hen. She comes inside the Raptor Center from the courtyard to live when the temperature is freezing outside here, but all the rest of the year, she has special mews to live in where everywhere she wants to be is easy to get to if all she can do is hop and walk... perches, platforms, astroturf and a hutch.
The thing that makes me sad is that I thought I was taking a video of Sienna and it wasn't recording her. She is such a beauty!
My friend and I also saw a young bald eagle, a peregrine high up on her ledge perches, a pretty great horned owl from northern Minnesota where it is snowier so more of her feathers are white, three red-tailed hawks (a light phase one and a dark phase one besides a hen with normal plumage), a venerable 40 year old turkey vulture, and another pretty female kestrel named Violet. She, too, has a special 'freeloft', adapted because she can fly only for short distances. It is more of a 'safe flight cage' because she can fly.
I do have pictures of Violet! She wasn't feeling all that well today, poor gal...
We also examined artifacts, like raptor flight feathers and raptor feet and talons. The talons are sharp even on the artifacts, I felt them. Amazing, all the different sizes. The little kestrel foot had quite the claws!
Back for more sponsoring my sweet Sienna and also another bird next year!
PS: I found out that American Kestrels are about as heavy as 115 paper clips, that male Bald Eagles are seven or eight pounds and that female Bald Eagles are ten or eleven pounds.