Love is in the air

Because today is Valentine’s Day, I thought this would be a good time to start blogging again. Now few things are as powerful in saying I love you as little chalky candy hearts with cute messages, but I’m here to give you the next best thing – a blog about love between falcons. My fieldwork studying American Kestrel behavior has come to an end, so here are some of the insights into romantic love I’ve learned from these fast flyers.

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1. Love is extravagant – Male kestrels often court potential mates by flying high in the air and making quick swoops down while calling out “klee klee klee klee klee!” Males will then repeat this aerial dance and show off their beautiful blue wings in an effort to impress females. This desire to impress the opposite sex with song and dance never happens in the human world.

Male American kestrel in flight

2. True love involves good food – Men often take their significant other out to eat as part of a romantic date. Male kestrels are similar in that they will bring food to the female to cement pair-bonding. The female often whines in anticipation of the free meal, but I’m too afraid to make any comparisons to the human world here. The meal is usually an insect or rodent, but kestrels also hunt birds, lizards, frogs, and even snakes! Guys, take note and bring a snake to your next romantic dinner. What works for the kestrels has to work for humans, right?!

Nothing says I love you like a freshly-killed snake.

3. Love fights together – While I was following pairs of kestrels around for my graduate research, I occasionally observed encounters with potential predators such as Cooper’s and Red-tailed Hawks. One pair of kestrels actually used a nest box close to a Red-tailed Hawk nest. This meant that there were numerous interactions with the pair of Red-tails. I watched the kestrel pair team-up multiple times to dive-bomb and harass the invading hawks. This kestrel pair also chased off a Cooper’s Hawk that came too close for comfort. While the kestrels were certainly protecting themselves, their main motivation most likely came from the desire to protect their nesting territory and their young. Lesson in love? Work with your partner to fight against neighbors who are different from you or want to eat your kids.

American kestrel pair, male (left) female (right)

A family that fights together, stays together.

Hopefully you now realize that falcons have a lot to teach you about love. I didn’t write everything that I’ve learned from watching kestrels because that could fill an entire book . . . or at least a large bumper sticker. Go spend time with the ones that you love and appreciate the life God has given you. If you eat a few chocolates and scream like a kestrel while you’re at it, that’s cool too. Falcon out!

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