Box Occupancy Update, Landowners and first Male capture

Male at Whitecliff Vineyards. Gardiner, NY

It's still early days, but the nest boxes are filling up fast. Kestrels are on the move throughout the eastern US and I'm finding birds all over Ulster County. Of the 25 boxes being monitored for this project, fourteen are currently occupied by at least one kestrel. I'm sure some of the birds I'm seeing are migrants simply popping up in open habitat...a nice confirmation that I'm putting boxes in suitable areas. Once the migrants move out the picture will be clearer.

Recent kestrel box install. Gardiner, NY. Cooper's hawk plucking post is in
right foreground

One of the joys of this project has been meeting several local landowners. Ulster County is largely rural with many farms, ranches, vineyards and orchards. Many of the folks hosting kestrel boxes are genuinely interested in coexisting with wildlife on their lands. One of my major goals with monitoring kestrels at nest boxes is building this network and platform for local wildlife conservation, appreciation and advocacy.

I've received a few comments from landowners and interested folks about box placement. "Why don't you put it over by those trees?" or "Will the birds really use the box way out in the open like that?" As many reading this will know, kestrels like open space. They have evolved to live away from the cover of forest, where they can see a long way. Kestrels are small and fall into the category of prey for a few larger raptors. A kestrel perched on a box or post well away from cover has a better chance of evading a Great-horned Owl or Cooper's Hawk because it can see the predator coming from a long way off. Putting a nest box too close to woods is inviting trouble in the form of sneak attacks that would give the kestrel a slimmer chance of getting away. Their false eyespots, or ocelli, contribute to deterring sneak attacks from behind. If the predator thinks it's being watched, it may not attack. Lots of small raptors have this adaptation for being both hunter and hunted.

The bird in the photos here was trapped yesterday at the Whitecliff Vineyards outside Gardiner, NY. I had just dropped my bal-chatri trap for the male when the owner, Michael Migliore, pulled up in his Bobcat tractor doing some road work. I had barely a second to say hi before the kestrel hit the trap. He was caught immediately. His mate gave some angry killee calls to let me know she remembered who I was (Maybe not but I did band her a few days ago). After a few minutes for banding and some measurements, I brought the bird back for Michael to see. When it comes to kestrels in the hand, you have to share them with someone.

¿Quien es mas macho? Definitely this guy.

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