January 4, 2012
The Aquarium of the Pacific is home to a small group of raptors, or birds of prey, including the American Kestrel. It is the smallest, most common, and most colorful of the North American falcons. They feed on small rodents, helping to curb populations of so-called nuisance species like mice. American Kestrels are the only North American falcon that regularly hunts by kiting, or sailing on the wind. They are found throughout the Americas, from south of the Arctic tree line to regions of South America, preferring to hunt in open fields, marshlands, deserts, and suburban areas with high perches like telephone wires.
American Kestrels eat a wide variety of small prey, including insects, rodents, small birds, reptiles, and amphibians. They fly with rapid wing beats and then hover using the kiting behavior when they spot potential prey. They will then fold in their wings and swoop to the ground to grab their prey with their sharp talons. These raptors are territorial and solitary, except during breeding and migrating seasons. They can tolerate high temperatures in the desert and do not require a source of drinking water, instead getting moisture from their food.
The Aquarium’s American Kestrel Orion makes appearances on the glove of a trainer as a program animal, allowing guests to get an up-close look.