By any objective measure, American Kestrels are the most adorable non-owl raptors. They’re also the most common raptor in the United States, with a population of 2.5 million (4 million globally), although their numbers are declining. Unfortunately, they’re fairly shy and I’ve struggled to get any kind of photograph of them.

Thanks to a tip from Daniel Dietrich, I was able to track down a very tolerant American Kestrel. It was happily perched on a fence as I pulled up. It registered my presence, but quickly went back to scanning for prey. Eventually, I was even able to get out of the car and creep even closer without disturbing it.

This shot was taken in full sun about 3 hours before sunset, which is harsher than I would usually work with. But, for the cutest raptor, I’ll make an exception.