Kestrels are a familiar sight hovering in the air at the side of the motorway. They are looking for a small rodent, something they can eat. We’ve had them brought in before, usually injured. When we’ve patched them up and fed them well, they are released. One of last year’s is still around, flying free but coming for food, which is wonderful to see.
The one above, who we have called Kizzy, is fit and well so no nursing is needed. Her circumstances are quite different. She is a captive bred bird, an imprint who was reared by humans. Kestrels are often kept as captives even though they wouldn’t be able to catch anything big enough for us humans to eat! The reasoning behind falconry is for us humans to catch their dinner and a large bird such as a goshawk, a buzzard or Harris Hawk would do this easily. They pounce on their prey (a rabbit maybe) and give it up when their handler gives them an alternative – a piece of dead chick perhaps. In the olden days (no supermarkets) this was an important source of getting food.
Our little Kizzy knows none of this. Her life so far has been one of waiting for a dead chick to be given to her. She has been tied to a block (perch) by a leash fastened to her legs so she couldn’t fly away. She chatters to us when sees us – a piercing shriek – feed me please! Falcons and hawks are popular with enthusiasts but not so much so if they are imprints. Everyone wants a parent reared bird – they are quiet and never beg for food. You can get fed up with a large hawk, with a loud call, shouting to you all the time!
The sound Kizzy makes is no problem, it is low enough to be pleasant. We like to know that she is acknowledging us. Before she was brought to us she had never flown free, she sat on her perch all the time. These birds do a lot of sitting around in the wild, but it is on a branch, swaying in the wind and high up in a tree. Not so good tied to a perch on the ground.
So the first thing we did was to take her jesses (leather strips used to fasten her legs) off and remove the leash also. We’ve let her go in an aviary (small to start with) where there are lots of branches. At first she just sat on the floor – she didn’t know what to do. We put her food on a branch and within a day she was flying up to take it. Kizzy soon learned how to fly…….. it’s a natural instinct after all.
What’s the long term plan? Are we to keep Kizzy as a captive bird for the rest of her life? Crying for food when she sees us? I don’t think so. But first we have to get her weight up. We have to get her fit and able to fly well. We have to teach her to hunt – and that may be the hardest part of all.
Donations towards to the care of our wildlife would be much appreciated. We need more aviaries, cages and equipment.
If you would like to sponsor Kizzy or other of our wild please send a donation and we’ll send you:
An adoption certificate, Kizzy’s photo and story, a Sanctuary 2015 calendar, our latest Newsletter and regular updates.
£10.00 will help towards Kizzy’s care for a month
£50.00 will buy heat lamps for birds with weakness or injuries
£75.00 will buy a hospital ‘box’
£100.00 will refurbish an aviary
£500.00 will provide a new aviary