Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the February 25, 2008 Newsletter written in the community of 28 de Junio, in the Central Valley 8 kms east of Pujiltic, Chiapas, MÉXICO
about 800 meters in elevation, ± LAT. 16° 18'N, LONG. -92° 28'W.

American Kestrel, FALCO SPARVERIUS, tropicalis group

Tuesday I walked into my dwelling to find an American Kestrel, FALCO SPARVERIUS, on the floor, as shown above.

I could guess what the story was: One of the men in the community had found the bird half dead in his field and brought him to me. Recalling the dead magpie-jay of a couple of weeks ago, the dead chicken and the dead dog that'd been found that very Tuesday morning, and how also that morning as most mornings men had marched from town wearing spray tanks on their backs, I could also guess what the falcon's problem was. Right now through my back door I see men walking across their fields below waving applicator nozzles back and forth over the ground like magic wands as they spray their chemicals. The men wear bandanas across their noses, but my own nose stings from hundreds of feet away.

After about an hour the falcon clambered atop a bag of corn, then heavily flew onto a wire where he perched with his eyes closed all during a visit of some journalists who came to interview me. A couple of hours later he exited my door on a downward trajectory. I hadn't the spirit to go see if he'd reached someplace decent.

People here seem surprised when I tell them that I grew up calling the little falcons Sparrow Hawks, because they prey on small birds. They're lizard eaters, people here insist, and it's true that when a House Gecko ran up my wall my dazed visitor seemed to perk up, but not enough to go snatch a meal.

American Kestrels are distributed from northern Alaska to Panama. Here they're permanent residents but in the Yucatan and Chiapas's northern Gulf lowlands they're only winter visitors. Howell refers to a "tropicalis group" resident from Oaxaca to central Honduras, which includes our area.