By Nathan Crock
On February 6 Amanda Duren from the Ohio Bird Conservation Initiative gave a presentation at Lowe-Volk Park about the American Kestrel. She said these small birds weight anywhere between three to six ounces and are roughly the same size as a morning dove. They spread from as far as Alaska all the way down to South America. Around our area Duren said they like to nest in city parks and fields. They perch themselves up on wires and telephone poles where there they hunt for prey such as grasshoppers, crickets, cicadas, beetles, moths, and butterflies. They are also known to go for lizards, frogs, and other small birds. Duren said that during this time of the year they rely on eating mice and moles. They will hover over fields in search of the prey and then bring it up to their perch where they will consume it. She said one advantage that they birds have is they can see in the UV spectrum so they can see urine trails which lead them right to the prey.
In our area they choose their nest site selection in between February and March. In between March and early May the birds will begin laying eggs. They lay anywhere between four to six eggs which they incubate for thirty days. About a month after they are born they begin to fledge, which means they begin to fly and leave the nest. They will still however rely on their parents for two to three weeks after fledging. Duren said that in recent years they have been seeing a population decline of this bird. In order to combat that her organization along with several partners have teamed up to build nest boxes. These nest boxes are along stretches of route 23 and a stretch of route 30 between Upper Sandusky and Bucyrus. Duren said that these nest boxes are placed on the back of road signs by a team of volunteers. They are placed onto these signs at least ten feet off the ground and do no damage to sign as they have special t-bolts that fit into the channels of the sign.
The first twenty five boxes that they built were funded through a grant from the American Kestrel Partnership. The rest was funded by donors through a website called gofundme.com. There people can go and donate to their cause. Duren said that there are currently thirty two boxes up and are more are to be put up in upcoming moths. The program in Ohio was started in December of 2012 when the first boxes were put up in Wyandot County. Duren said there was some concern about these birds being so close to the Highway as they may get killed by traffic but after looking into statistics about the program in other states they saw that the fledge rate was 91% successful in Iowa with only two birds being killed from collision out of the sixty one birds who had been tagged. In Tennessee the statistics were even better with a 98% success rate with only one bird being killed from collision.
Duren said that this gives these birds as place to live and repopulate as their natural habitats continue to be destroyed by the removing of dead trees, fence rows, hedge rows, and pasture and meadow loss. She stated that the nest box program has been shown to be a valuable component in the conservation of the species. Partners in this program include the Ohio Bird Conservation Initiative, the Ohio Ornithological Society, the American Kestrel Partnership, the Ohio Division of Wildlife, and the Ohio Department of Transportation. By going to gofundme.com and searching for the American Kestrel Highway Nest Box Program people can donate towards the cause which helps to pay for things such as safety vest, hard hats, vehicle hazards lights, and ladders.