Kestrels are one of nature’s most skilled aviators, capable of hanging in the sky like a kite tethered to a string. They maintain their equilibrium in fluctuating winds with exquisite aerial adjustments that help prevent distortion in their vision.
Like hummingbirds and kingfishers, kestrels have the advantage of a larger accessory optic system, a sort of superhero power that detects movement and helps keep their balance, enabling unparalleled head stabilization while hovering. By bobbing their heads periodically, kestrels can estimate distances and locate prey, sometimes by seeing urine trails with their ultraviolet-sensitive vision.
And then, these raptors make a short, steep dive to strike their prey—small rodents, lizards, insects, and smaller birds, to name a few.
This quiet 3-minute video, filmed by Paul Dinning, shares multiple views of a kestrel hovering and hunting in Cornwall, England. Notice how the bird’s head appears ‘locked in space.’ In one of the last clips of the video, around 1m50s, the raptor dines on a recently caught snake.
Watch these related videos next:
• The American Kestrel falcon’s head stabilization skills
• The Common Kestrel, a micro-documentary by West of England Falconry
• Living with a Wild Bird: What’s it like to become a falconer?
• The kingfisher’s gaze stabilization
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