False eyes

7-27-16 Aldo at Lakewoods.jpg

Sometimes even a kestrel needs time to relax after a busy day of work. Aldo had the opportunity to enjoy the view of Lake Namakagon after an outreach program at Lakewoods Resort this week.  As he watched boaters coming and going on the lake, I had a great view of the back of his head. In this photo, you can see the black spots on his nape. These “ocelli” are thought to act as false eyes. They might protect the kestrel from a predator like a Cooper’s or Red-tailed Hawk. The spots might also prevent angry songbirds from getting too close when trying to chase off a kestrel. In either case, they will wait to attack until they have the element of surprise. If the kestrel’s trick works, the attacker will choose to back down rather than risk getting tangled in the talons of the seemingly vigilant kestrel. The false eyes are a simple illusion that helps wild American Kestrels enjoy a nice view without worrying too much about predators.


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