Falco sparverius

American kestrel

Rita Maria Magdaleno



American Kestrel in Captivity: A Sonnet


             “Practice quiet observation”

                      (from Southeastern Birding Trail Map)


You are feisty, little falcon, sparrow hawk, Falco spaverius, Halcón Cernícalo, flurry

of one good wing, your brief ascensions. I find you captured & tethered, on display,

a lame right wing, smudge of rust like a brush-stroke of sunset on your head. No courtship

for you, five years in captivity, the silence of your love-song. Your obsidian eyes are

watching me. He can be mean, your care-taker says. And I see you pierce

the belly of a white mouse, pull out the wet ruby heart, shine of entrails. Your talon is

precise— a spike, smooth-gold, black nail-tip that could rip the tent of Heaven.


Little one, I would sing for you & your Beloved. I would bring you delicate morsels, tiny

gifts, exchange of lovers in courtship. In dreams of flight, white dots shine like a string

of pearls on the trailing edges of your under-wings. I love your white cheeks, grey crown,

white-washed belly, dust of cinnamon. You are lovely. I imagine that you still dream

of White House Road where you were scooped up, five years ago. There, it is twilight

& you face into the wind. There, you hover above the shrew, tender morsel you will bring

to your Beloved who nests in the hole of a saguaro. Who wonders why you never returned.





Birding is Fun website Sept 2011

Cornell Lab of Ornithology website 2011

Cunningham, Richard L., ed. Fifty Common Birds of the Southwest. Western National

          Park Association, Tucson 2005.

National Geographic website 2011

Southeastern Birding Trail Map, AZ Game & Fish Department, 2006




Rita Maria Magdaleno is a writer-in-the-schools for AZ Commission on the Arts. Rita considers the desert her home—even though she was born in Augsburg to a German warbride mother. Rita's poetic memoir, Marlene Dietrich, Rita Hayworth, & My Mother, was published by University of Arizona Press, 2004.