It may be smaller than a hawk or the bald eagle, but make no mistake, the kestrel is not a bird you want to get close to. A man in Florida reportedly lost a large part of his lip after attempting to kiss a wild kestrel on the beak. According to Suncoast Animal League, an animal shelter in Palm Harbor, Florida, the man encountered an injured kestrel earlier this month and decided to take it home. The bird had no apparent signs of trauma besides some light swelling and a bruised eye—typical of hitting a vehicle—and appeared to be relatively tame, so the man decided to keep it as a pet.
Possession of wild animals without the proper permits is illegal. Fruther, despite the fact that kestrels are the most abundant raptors in North America, they are protected by law.
“The man was informed that the bird was a protected species and must be turned in to the proper authorities,” Suncoast Animal League wrote on Facebook. “He still maintained that he wanted the Kestrel as a pet but finally agreed to give it up after much dialogue. But before he turned it over, he decided a goodbye kiss was in order.
“The Kestrel had other ideas and took a big, giant chunk out of the lip service that was provided.”
Perhaps the bird thought it was a worm. Also worthy of note is that kestrels are primarily ambush hunters, unlike many other birds of prey, and prefer to wait until their targets come close before striking.
Also known as a sparrowhawk, the kestrel’s usual diet generally consists of lizards, mice, squirrels, and occasionally other birds. Although kestrels are not the most powerful or aggressive of raptors, they are easily trained and are popular animals for novice falconers to practice with.
This kestrel was eventually turned over the animal shelter and will likely be released once it recovers. The incident is reminiscent of another case in Florida in which a man tried to kiss a cottonmouth. That attempt ended up arguably worse, as the man had to be transported to a hospital in critical condition.