American Kestrel Finds New Wings as an Avian Artist

In the picturesque village of Quechee, Vermont, an extraordinary story has unfolded involving a remarkable American kestrel named Ferrisburgh. Once a free-spirited falcon soaring through the skies, Ferrisburgh’s life took a fateful turn. After losing his ability to fly, he has embarked on a captivating journey as a painter, captivating audiences with his newfound artistic talent.

Thanks to the dedication of the Vermont Institute of Natural Science (VINS), Ferrisburgh has made the unique transformation from a flight ambassador to an avian artist.

The Rescued American Kestrel

Ferrisburgh, named after the town where he was discovered, became a resident of VINS after an unsuspecting passerby found him perched on their shoulder, The Washington Post reports.

As environmental educators at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science in Quechee noted, Ferrisburgh’s vocal demeanor and tendency to approach humans were signs that he had likely been kept illegally in captivity.

Unable to survive in the wild due to his upbringing, Ferrisburgh was destined for a different role – that of an educational flight ambassador.

For several years, Ferrisburgh served as an educational bird, captivating audiences during field trips and classes, and being an advocate for of kestrel conservation. VINS used Ferrisburgh’s presence to educate people about the decline of kestrel populations and the measures needed to protect them, such as avoiding pesticides and building nesting boxes.

The American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) is the smallest and most colorful falcon in North America.
Photo: Pexels
The American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) is the smallest and most colorful falcon in North America.

However, Ferrisburgh’s life took an unexpected turn when he suffered a wing injury, rendering him flightless. The injury was attributed to a metabolic bone disease caused by poor nutrition, reports the Santa Fe New Mexican.

With Ferrisburgh’s spirit unbroken, VINS staff sought other opportunities for stimulation and exercise and to keep him engaged with the public.

The Birth of an Avian Artist

Inspired by similar endeavors at the American Eagle Foundation in Tennessee, VINS staff decided to introduce Ferrisburgh to the world of painting, UPI reports. Lexie Smith, an AmeriCorps environmental educator, and Mal Muratori, the family programs director at the institute, set up a space with newspapers and canvases, each dabbed with non-toxic paint. They used hand signals known to Ferrisburgh to encourage him to create art while chasing his favorite snacks, mealworms, according to the Washington Post.

The colorful tracks left behind by Ferrisburgh became the foundation of his artistic journey. And Ferrisburgh’s first painting class, aptly named “Coloring With Kestrels,” attracted more than a dozen participants eager to create alongside this extraordinary avian artist.

Ferrisburgh’s art is also available through VINS online auction.

A Message of Conservation

While Ferrisburgh painted with finesse, the class also received a valuable lesson about kestrels and the importance of preserving these magnificent birds.

“If you ever find a baby bird outside and you think it needs help, call a wildlife rehabilitator,” Muratori said. “Don’t ever try to raise these birds alone, or they’ll end up like Ferrisburgh. He’s a little bird who think he’s a human.”

Nesting sites for kestrels include tree cavities, cliffs, and even human-made structures like buildings and nest boxes.
Photo: Pexels
Nesting sites for kestrels include tree cavities, cliffs, and even human-made structures like buildings and nest boxes.

Future Artists in the Making

As Smith and Muratori explore Ferrisburgh’s potential as an art instructor, they are also considering introducing painting as an enrichment activity for other birds at VINS.

Could this be the beginning of a new avian art movement?

Through his art, Ferrisburgh continues to inspire people to appreciate the beauty of kestrels and to take action to protect these remarkable birds. His story serves as a reminder that even when faced with adversity, one can find a new purpose and soar to new heights, albeit in a slightly different way.

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