Tuesday, September 6, 2016

2016 Kestrel highlights - Part 1

I've dedicated all my posts to hawks over the last several months, but now that there's a lull in hawk activity, it's a good time to catch up on Lower East Side kestrels.

As kestrel populations are in decline, I'm happy to see so many in the city (they're everywhere) and was very pleased to note the ones I casually observed this last spring seemed to do very well.  Of four known pairs, all of them double brooded (in different locations) and they produced over 20 offspring between them.  It would be nice to have a scientific study done to document these tiny raptors in the city as I don't know that much about them.  I've seen them eating mice, sparrows, and large insects, so it would be helpful to know how things like insecticide and rodenticide affect them.

Kestrels are cavity dwellers and like to nest in places like the cornices of old tenement buildings.  As the city loses these old buildings and replaces them with featureless glass ones, will this mean we also lose these beautiful little falcons?  Perhaps nesting boxes could be placed in strategic locations.

Male kestrel fledgling

Above is a male kestrel who had just fledged his nest about an hour before the photo was taken.  He still has some white baby down on his head.  He and his siblings (this family had five kids) used the fire escapes as safe platforms for learning to fly.

Male kestrel fledgling

This guy was very hesitant to take the big leap.  When he finally did, his first instinct was to grab onto the closest wall.

Baby's second flight

Baby's second flight

When he couldn't hang onto the wall, he was forced to flap his wings and fly to the next available platform, which was across the street.

Baby's second flight

Again, trying to find a perch on some bricks where there was no foothold.

Male kestrel fledgling grips the wall

Arrrrg!

Male kestrel fledgling clinging to wall

Finally, the young kestrel took another big flight across the street.  This time, he crash-landed onto an air-conditioner, which would have been fine, except a couple of pigeons already laid claim to it.  They were not happy to have him invade their turf.

Male kestrel fledgling and a big scary pigeon

The distraught kestrel screamed at the big scary pigeons...

Male kestrel fledgling and a big scary pigeon

This was probably the only time these pigeons were able to intimidate a falcon!

Male kestrel fledgling and pigeon

Male kestrel fledgling screams at a pigeon

The battle went on for about 15 minutes as the pigeons dove at the kestrel and he tried to get away by climbing the window screen.  The funny thing was, eventually, all three birds fell asleep!  As it was near sunset, the pigeons went to roost. The one on the sill turned its head to the corner and took a nap.  The kestrel just zonked out on the a/c for a while.

Male kestrel fledgling with two pigeons

He woke up re-energized and took another big flight across the street where he roosted safely on a pigeon-less fire escape.

Male kestrel fledgling

Stay tuned for more 2016 kestrel highlights.

See 2015 Kestrel highlights here.

You can get involved with recording data on kestrels by visiting the Peregrine Fund.