Friday, May 28, 2010


I don't think this bird got as much attention as the yellow headed blackbird that was on a long layover at the Wolf Lake Fish Hatchery last month, but it certainly created a buzz.

It's one of the lesser known falcons - the Merlin. Smaller than the infamous and bulkier Peregrine, and slightly larger than the miniature Kestrel, the Merlin is also known as the pigeon hawk. This was a lifer for me.

There were actually two of them. And eyewitness accounts report attempts at breeding, raising the hopes of a resident pair. Unfortunately, no such luck. Merlins only frequent Michigan during migration and perhaps this inexperienced young couple were suffering from wander-lust.

The neat thing was that they were practicing being a couple and predictably residing in a big fir on the corner of Kenwood and Campbell in the Westwood neighborhood. Two avid bird watchers, Sue Weaver and Tim Tesar, live right across the street and were delighted to find this rare bird right outside their windows.

I was only able to get these so-so pictures on a cloudy evening. When I returned on a clear blue
eve, the birds had moved on, most likely north.

Roughly a week later, driving down East Michigan Avenue, my ever-searching eyes spotted an unfamiliar silhouette perched on a wire in front of Sergeant Energy. Thinking it might be the Merlin, I pulled over, only to spook the bird over towards McKenzie Bakery where I managed to track it down and discover it was another falcon, the Kestrel.


He was eyeing the ground for unsuspecting prey. And had it not been for me and my ridiculously large lens aimed at the bird, probably not a soul (except for another birder) would have noticed this animal living among us.

I recently found one of these guys hunting over at the BTR Park just off Parkview Avenue.

Well within their territorial range, Kestrels are relatively common in Michigan, particularly the country. Their signature hunting behavior is to hover in one spot over open country, rapidly beating their wings, as they zero-in on prey, and eventually dive bomb for a kill. You can't mistake it.

More and more common to the city-scape is the Peregrine Falcon, nesting atop sky scrapers and hunting the cliffs and canyons of big cities.

They're spotted periodically in downtown Kalamazoo. I personally witnessed one in town last year, atop the SkyRise building on Burdick Avenue.

It may have been one of the off-spring of the nesting pair in Grand Rapids, or perhaps Detroit, looking for a home. The question is whether Kalamazoo is big enough for a Peregrine. Although I personally like to think of Kalamazoo as a small city, this one time I hope we're "big" enough for a Peregrine.

Perhaps if we're lucky, they'll build a nest on Peregrine Towers, down on the Kalamazoo Mall.

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