American Kestrel (Case History #1)

Fledgling Kestrel returned to parents in the heart of downtown Birmingham

A young Kestrel was found on the sidewalk in downtown Birmingham, less than a block from Linn Park, a small city park surrounded by tall buildings. We  gave the young bird a thorough exam and found no injuries, so the next day I recorded its alarm calls and arranged to have the bird’s finder show me exactly where he had found the bird. When I arrived at the location, I immediately spotted the nest, a drain hole in the side of the Land & Title building, a three-story office building with a flat roof. I obtained permission to get up on the roof, and carried the young bird and the tape recorder up to see what could be done. When I looked out on the surrounding office buildings looming overhead, I felt that the situation was quite hopeless. How could I possibly locate two tiny falcons in the midst of all of this human activity? Nevertheless, I played the tape of the young kestrel’s alarm calls, a shrill, kek-kek-kek that has tremendous carrying power for such a small bird. Within 5 minutes I spotted a male Kestrel swooping in to land on the parapet of the building directly across the street. Looking up, I could see the female hovering directly above the male. The birds had responded to the alarm calls immediately, despite the background noise of traffic.  I took the young Kestrel out of the traveling box and held her up on my outstretched hand, hoping the parents would fly to my side of the street. Instead, the young bird fluttered out of my hand. It was her first flight, and I held my breath for fear she would not make it, but she remained airborne, and soon landed safely beside the male on the other side of 20th Street. This was a reunion that just could not have happened without the aid of the alarm calls.

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