Update: Kip, the Copulating Kestrel
The video of the Kestrel feeding ceremony included in a previous post provoked criticism from master falconers. Apparently, the consensus is that the “dancing” as seen in that video is more like the dancing at a club in Cancún or any Spring Break destination: a blatant copulation attempt. And this, they claim, is evidence of malimprinting.
In order to assuage concerns about survival of that Kestrel, I asked one of the volunteers (she is the one who can be heard offering forewarnings and directives in the video) of his status. As it turns out, Kip had refused to be hacked off and returned to the facility, but most of the others of his mews moved on.
The master falconers were mostly disapproving of the direct contact made with the raptors, and I think that there is merit in their criticisms. There are more optimal hacking protocols for raptor reintroduction, and maybe wildlife care centers could benefit from collaboration with falconers. However, I had the impression that the criticism from members of the falconry community was systematic in that they (independently) expressed disapproval of wildlife rehabilitators and their education programs, in general. For the record, Louise Shimmel, founder of Cascades Raptor Center, in her chapter written for Hand-Rearing Birds, recommends the use of “feeding puppets, ghost costumes, [and] feeding through a chute or slot” for feeding and handling of raptors if re-nesting and fostering by a conspecific adult is not possible. So there is at least one raptor rehabilitator, a former president of International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council (IWRC), who likely meets the falconers’ standards for handling.
Kip’s behavior and my reception should not be advertised as conventional protocol for Kestrel-rehabiliator interaction, but it does not occur often there. Rogers Wildlife accommodates thousands of birds in a year, and they are proud to publish their release rates. Besides, considering all that the volunteers of Rogers Wildlife do, I would not condemn them for an occasional imprinted Kestrel whose quality of life is quite good.