I was fortunate to capture some incredible photographs of an American Kestrel during a recent early morning photo shoot at the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma on December 31, 2022. I had arrived just before sunrise to take advantage of the golden morning light. As I began driving the auto tour road, I spotted a male American Kestrel perched on the right side. I drove past slowly, and to my surprise, the small falcon did not fly away.

American Kestrel With Wings Spread

American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) With Wings Spread

I turned my truck around at the next intersection and approached the bird again, this time with him on my side of the vehicle. As the soft morning light illuminated his features, I readied my camera to capture some shots. The kestrel began grooming its feathers, providing the perfect opportunity. With wings fully spread for balance, I got an unobstructed view of his intricate plumage.

One of the most distinguishing features of American Kestrels is their aerodynamic wings. These powerful wings allow them to swiftly grab prey while hovering midair, a feeding behavior known as “kiting.” Their wingspan can reach up to 20 inches despite their diminutive stature of only 4 ounces. It’s a marvel of nature’s efficiency.

As I photographed this bird peacefully preening the morning away, I felt grateful to witness such an intimate glimpse into the daily routine of Michigan’s smallest falcon. Moments like these make early mornings and long hikes through refuge terrain completely worthwhile. I can’t wait to revisit my favorite wildlife hotspots this season in hopes of capturing more scenes like my American Kestrel with wings proudly spread.

Gear Used:

  • Camera: Canon EOS R7
  • Lens: RF 800mm F11 IS STM

Technical:

  • Location: Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge (Oklahoma)
  • Date and Time Taken: December 31, 2022 (8:48 A. M.)
  • Exposure Mode: Manual
  • Aperture: f11
  • Shutter speed: 1/250
  • ISO: 1600 (Auto)
  • White Balance: Auto
  • Metering Mode: Evaluative
  • Back-button Focus
  • Animal Eye Single Point Auto Focus
  • Exposure Compensation: +1/3 EV
  • Focal Length: 800 mm