Standing outside the door with the knuckles of my raised right hand just inches from it, I listened carefully, trying to decide what was happening on the other side. Hearing what sounded like normal activity, I tapped on the wood.
Normal activity: That idea made me smile.
“Yeah! Come on in!”
Turning the knob, I entered the room slowly, despite knowing it was safe to do so. With my eyes starting to adjust to the brighter light inside the room, I closed the door behind me just as the alarm started to blare.
I know it’s not nice to call a lady an “alarm,” and the word “blare” isn’t polite either, but, well, there we were.
The lady, in this case, was a young American kestrel. Her pale yellow feet, just visible below her nearly-spherical-looking body, clutched her perch, and her head — again, just barely discernible above the fluff — was turned toward me.
Her appearance was a defensive behavior. Her tan-streaked chest was puffed out, and her cinnamon and grey wings were held just out from her body. Her tail, still not fully grown, pointed straight down from her back. She looked big, in her mind, despite the fact that she weighed just over 100 grams.
And her vocalization. Wow. She was loud. Hoping to scare me off with her call since her appearance wasn’t doing the trick, she stared at me with her dark eyes as her beak opened and closed rapidly. I could see her bright red throat under the ultraviolet lights, and I watched as her tongue vibrated with her cry.
“Well, hello,” I said, my voice quiet so I didn’t scare her, assuming she could even hear me.
“Klee klee klee klee klee klee klee klee klee klee klee klee klee,” she replied.
Satisfied she was okay, I made my way across the room to stand and look at her. I hadn’t seen her in a few weeks, and her appearance was strikingly different than at that time. Her adult plumage was coming in, and the amount of juvenile fuzz covering her body had decreased dramatically. I was in awe.
“I think she’s ready to eat,” I was told. Settling into a comfortable position out of the way, I watched her training session unfold. She flew and “hunted” like a champ, her instincts taking her through the next 20 minutes or so.
Nature is incredible.
I’m a volunteer with a conservation education organization in north Alabama. For more information, click here.