Are you a birdwatcher? If yes, keep reading. If no, keep reading, but take extra time to admire the photo. Isn’t he pretty? He’s a Greater Kestrel. A baby Greater Kestrel.
I’m a birdwatcher and one of the most frustrating things in the world is JUVENILLE RAPTORS. Ugh.
Ugh, because they quite often look nothing like the adults. So if you have to spend years learning to tell the difference between 30 different brown raptors, you’re going to have to do it all again because the babies are super-complicated. But why?
Even through baby brown raptors kind of make you want to toss your bird book into the nearest lake and watch it sink to the bottom, there are many reasons why babies just look so darn different.
Here’s a few:
Camoflage: Let’s take a really striking raptor like a Bateleur. As an adult it’s black and white and orange and incredibly pretty. Babies? Drab. Drab drab drab. Their brown is so lame it’s almost an olive greens colour. But, what blends into trees better? Non-descript olive greeny. That’s what. A baby raptor’s colour actually keeps it protected and not just in one way either…
Competition: Generally as a rule, we like our kids. We want them to survive. We can identify a human kid by its size, but because baby birds quickly reach the same size as their parents, it’s not so easy there. Hence, the colour. An adult bird can identify a baby of the same species and know right away that it’s not a threat, because like, a baby bird is not about to take the territory you’ve held with your wife-bird for the past 12 years.
So yeah, frustrating but evolutionarily beautiful. Baby brown raptors.
Hoofnote: Some raptors can take years and years before they take on their adult colouration. That’s a lot of time with a ‘free pass;’ sometimes as long as seven or eight years.
Hoofnote 2 (because I can): The Greater Kestrel pictured above gave me one of the biggest moments of my life when he suddenly swooped down from the sky and killed a fiscal shrike, all on his own, with no ‘mommy training.’ I think the look on my face as I let him eat his kill says it all… Love.