The Kestrel

“The Kestrel or Sparrow Hawk is about the size of a Robin, and is the only small hawk which has a shade of chestnut-red in its tail feathers. Reed truly says that it has ‘bright colors and odd markings.’ It is so handsome and at the same time so evidently harmless, that it has escaped much of the destruction aimed at its larger companions. Another point in its favor is its ability to adapt itself to its environment: it is equally at home in the pasture lands of the east and the forests of other regions.

“The Kestrel feeds principally on mice, large insects, frogs, and snakes. At times it attacks birds and may kill jays, quail, and other birds as large as itself. It may visit towns where sparrows abound, whence the name ‘Sparrow-hawk.’ Dr. Taverner, however, thinks that a more appropriate name would be “Grasshopper Hawk.” (And he notes that when taken from the nest young, this little falcon is easily tamed.) Scientists have examined 291 stomachs and found that birds were killed and eaten only in the winter when insects are not available. “It is obvious that the Sparrow Hawk is beneficial and should be protected.” 

“Kestrel or Sparrow Hawk. AOU 360. Summer Resident- List, 1916. One observed at Alberton, 1937.

“Adult Male: Head slaty blue, crown rufous; face pattern black and white. Black rufous with or without black spots or bars. Wings blue gray; tail rufous-red with a wide sub-terminal black band and a narrow white tip. Underparts creamy white to buff, a few black spots or none. 

“Female: Head and face like male; black wings and tail rufous, barred black; underparts more or less dark brown and streakedImmature birds resemble adults. Length of adult 10.5 inches.”


April 25, 1947


“The brilliant sunlight lifted the last of the snow from the hillsides today and set streamlets to trickling happily down towards the mill pond. The day set nice winds to visiting quietly in our remnant of orchard trees and whispering in the spruces beside. They brought me, about my choring, subtle reminders that presently tightly curled buds will unfold and grass will green. Jamie has already found blades of grass in some sheltered spot but as he told us by ‘phone “jes’ bare nibbles of it” for the rabbits there…

As in former Springs, April brings “gull time” to the folks at Alderlea, and to the two in the house on the hill. In numbers they flock inland from the reaches of the river and from dawn until evening calls them to return there, we are aware of their presence. Like great flocks of white geese, they come down to rest on the hillside briefly, and noisily. But very beautiful they are as they swoop and soar above the stream while the sun shines goldenly on them and yet their screaming is so plaintive and continued that both Jeanie and I are relieved when at last in warmer Spring days they desert the neighbourhood, leaving it to the crows’ and other more musical calls. I thought that this morning’s light wind in the trees made a gentle apology for the dreariness of yesterday’s cloudiness and perhaps the coldness that has come tonight. But as James remarked when he came indoors after assuring himself that everything was ship-shape at the stables “It’s better to have this frost now than when we get into the cropping!” And in between April’s dark days and cold ones, one catches fleeting but heartening promises of delightful days to come.”

Ellen’s Diary, April 25th, 1947.