Look at a perched Gyrfalcon; they are pure muscle just waiting to be put into motion. Peregrine Falcons have a dark, brooding look; even in full sunlight they still give the feeling of being partially in shadow. Merlins are compact packages of energy and ferocity; ever on the very verge of flight. American Kestrels are, well… to be honest, they’re cute. When perched on a utility wire strung along a roadway, their boldly delineated blue gray, reddish brown, and white plumage combine with their small size, round heads and stubby beaks to give them as much the appearance of an anime character as a highly effective avian predator. Yet make no mistake; American Kestrels are every bit as masterful hunters as their larger relations.

Kate Davis, founder of Raptors of the Rockies, has spent decades photographing these smallest of North American falcons, and in her American Kestrel; Pint-sized Predator, she teams up with fellow photographer Rob Palmer to present a truly captivating as well as highly informative portrait of the lives of her subjects. Relying as much on brilliant photography every bit as much as clearly written text to explain the life history of the species, the book is exceptionally approachable for even the most novice bird watcher.

However make no mistake; American Kestrel is by no means a “lightweight” book. As an overview of a species, bird watchers and general naturalists of most all levels of experience will find something contained within the book’s pages that will be both new and interesting to them. For my own part, I was particularly surprised to discover that American Kestrels employ a “leap-frog” migration pattern, and saddened to learn that eastern populations of the species are experiencing declines for reasons that are not entirely straight-forward nor easy to remediate.

Then of course there are the photographs. While I – like many readers of this review – have seen far more American Kestrels than I can ever hope to recount, I have never been able to see them at the level of detail depicted in Davis’ and Palmer’s remarkable photographs. Documentary in scope but raised to a level of true artistry, the photos contained in American Kestrel have opened my eyes to both physical details as well as behaviors exhibited by these birds that I have never been able to observe in the field. Truly, some of these images are so extraordinary that it bogles the mind how they were even captured on film (allow me the anachronistic metaphor please; “captured on a memory card” possesses no poetry whatsoever).

Thus for anyone interested – regardless of your previous level of experience in the study of birds – in learning about these “pint-sized” birds of prey; how they mate, reproduce, hunt, and migrate, as well as what the future may hold for them as a species, American Kestrel is the book for you. It should also be considered by American and Canadian teachers and school librarians for inclusion in their respective collections as the dynamic content of the full-color photographs are sure to capture young people’s attention, the text is well within the range of upper form as well as perhaps even some lower form students, and the birds themselves are readily observable throughout most of the North American continent. Indeed, American Kestrel; Pint-sized Predator is a book for the old and young alike; all that is required to enjoy it is curiosity and the willingness to learn something new.

American Kestrel coverTitle: American Kestrel; Pint-sized Predator

Author: Kate Davis, additional photographs by Rob Palmer

Publisher: Mountain Press Publishing

Format: Paperback

ISBN: 978-0-87842-636-2

Pages: 128 pp.

Published: October 2014

In accordance with Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR Part 255, it is disclosed that the copy of the book read in order to produce this review was provided gratis to the reviewer by the publisher.