Tuesday, March 29, 2005




Like others, I appreciate your posting of the kestrel notes. The species was the first raptor to invade and abide in urban areas, in the 19th century with the construction of taller buildings.

I don't think we want this website to stray too far from Central Park's red-tails, a central story theme of your wonderful webpage. But because American kestrels (formerly called "sparrow hawks") can be so commonly encountered in every city of any size, their appearance here only adds to the urban hawk story. These delightful little falcons are full of spunk and inhabit cities without inhibition.
Urban hawk watchers should be aware (as many certainly are) of this engaging species. It was the first raptor I worked with, and I shall never forget its wonderful personality. These little falcons always act like they are the size of gyrfalcons, uninhibited by hardly anything they encounter in the city.

In rural areas, they share one trait with the red-tail that keeps them from being held in universal high regard -- they are merely common. Personally, I don't let commonality restrict my respect and esteem for either species. Some folks think they have to go to the Arctic to see a wild gyrfalcon, or to Africa to see a hawk-eagle of some sort to be "significant." For me, the kestrel and red-tail are quite sufficient. As visitors here can see, there is still much to be learned about these common species, and always much to be thrilled by. I'll leave the gyrs and African raptors to others. My spirits rise when I see a rural kestrel or red-tail -- and even more so at the sight of one in the city.

[And may I help everyone get the pronunciation of "gyrfalcon" right? I know, it looks like it should be "GIRE-falcon." But like so much else dealing with raptors used in early falconry, the bird's name derives from some antiquated terms from a former time in the development of English. The proper modern pronunciation is "JERR-falcon," spelling notwithstanding. And technically, a male gyrfalcon is called the jerkin, pronounced as spelled.

I hope this helps someone new to all of this. I embarrassed myself royally before some professors as a freshmen when I made some revelatory comment in class about a "gire-falcon." Oh, well.]


John A. Blakeman