American Kestrel

All posts tagged American Kestrel

Story and photography by Jim White, Senior Fellow for Land and Biodiversity

Although I have seen it many times, I still always pause at the sight of an American Kestrel. This smallest, and most colorful, of North American falcons is a master of flight. It can soar high — or hover dragonfly-like over open lands while searching for prey, suddenly plummeting downward, swooping onto some unsuspecting meadow vole or large insect.

As part of our ongoing cavity-nesting bird box program at the Coverdale Farm Preserve, seven American Kestrel nest boxes have been installed over the years and are maintained and monitored each nesting season. This year the Delaware Nature Society joined with a nationwide program that focuses on increasing the American Kestrel population throughout the United States. Surveys have indicated that the species has suffered dramatic declines throughout much of its range. The lack of adequate foraging habitat and nesting sites are possible reasons for this decline. As part of this nationwide program, Delaware Nature Society Land and Biodiversity Management staff have monitored the nest boxes weekly this year for adult activity.

Because the open meadows of the Coverdale Farm Preserve are excellent habitat for kestrels, we were confident that at least one pair would take up residence. We were not disappointed. On March 13th we observed a male perched on one of the boxes. Three days later a female appeared. Throughout the rest of March and into mid-April the pair was frequently seen hunting over the meadows of the preserve, catching meadow voles and jumping mice. Finally on April 23rd we discovered three eggs in the box. A few days later there were five eggs.

Then on March 31st we observed five, some may say “cute”, nestlings.

On June 14th, biologists from the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife captured and placed identification bands on the nestlings, so that they could be identified if recaptured in the future. The team also took measurements to determine the age and health of the nestlings. We were glad to learn that all five nestlings looked healthy and had plenty of body fat. After “processing”, the nestlings were carefully placed back into their nest box, and the team left them to continue to grow and fledge (probably in a week or so).

So next time you visit the Coverdale Farm Preserve be sure to look up: you may just see one of these beautiful falcons!

P.S. Interestingly enough, on June 9th, staff discovered a second active nest with three eggs. We are hoping that this nest will also be successful.

By Joe Sebastiani: Seasonal Program Team Leader

This was a great week at the Ashland Hawk Watch.  The weather did not look that promising with winds out of the southeast, thick clouds brewing, and periods of rain, but that didn’t stop lots of raptors from flying south.  Cyrus Moqtaderi, our official counter, and his dedicated staff of volunteers tallied 1,317 hawks pass Ashland this past Monday through Friday.  Highlights include our first Golden Eagle and Northern Goshawk of the season plus over 200 Osprey, which is certainly the best 5-days for Osprey in the history of the Hawk Watch.

Kim Steininger has been our most dedicated volunteer at the Ashland Hawk Watch this year. She captured this image of the Golden Eagle that flew by, 142 meters up.

It was also a great week for Sharp-shinned Hawk with 341, and 208 American Kestrel is excellent. Broad-winged Hawks also made a reappearance on Friday with 247 cruising by.  Finally, 15 Peregrine Falcons in 5 days at Ashland is pretty good for this usually coastal migrant.  We usually only get around 25 in an entire season.

Kim Steininger also got great photos of this Merlin, which dive-bombed our fake owl near the Hawk Watch.

For one of the best wildlife viewing experiences around, visit the Ashland Hawk Watch, any day now through November.  Early October is usually really alive with hawks, so come soon!  For all the totals of the season so far, visit our HawkCount site. Also, October 9 is the Big Sit at the Ashland Hawk Watch, where the Twitching Talons team will try to identify as many species from the site as possible…all day long.  Lots of good food and good people will be there, so don’t miss it!