American Kestrel on Wire - Photo Earl Harrison

Dick Phillips and I maintain and monitor 18 boxes of a project that started 25 years ago when the Delaware County Health Department encouraged students throughout the county’s schools to recycle aluminum cans to generate funds to pay for materials to build ten kestrel boxes. The ten original nestboxes were constructed by the Delaware County Bird Club and mounted on traffic signs under the guidance of the Ohio Department of Transportation. Starting in 1999, after two highway accidents involved vehicles striking signs that held kestrel nestboxes, the project’s boxes were moved to hang on utility poles owned by the Consolidated Electric Cooperative, Inc. The first successful kestrel nest fledged young in 1995, and after 22 successful seasons, 1,029 young falcons have entered the skies over Delaware County, proving the prophecy, “If you put up a nestbox in the right habitat, they will come.”

Dick Philips Climbing to a Kestrel Nestbox (2016) - Photo Dick Tuttle
Dick Phillips carries a kestrel nestling from K-14 to its banding appointment on June 8, 2013. Infertile eggs during the last two seasons made this activity impossible along Claypool Road.

In 2016, American Kestrels attempted 14 nests with 67 eggs in 12 boxes. Thirteen nests (92.9%) were successful after 54 (80.6%) eggs hatched and all hatchlings matured to fledge. The only nest failure took place in the same box for the second straight failed year even though both parents were present during all of our visits. The dedicated parents had incubated infertile eggs until we removed their eggs on July 28. The brown egg surfaces had been nearly erased from having been routinely rolled during an extremely long, failed incubation period. The eggs had also lost much of their weight due to evaporation of egg contents – a very sad effort, indeed.

March 9, 2016 was the earliest first-egg-date (FED) of the season. The latest FED was June 13. The latest nestling fledged around August 16 for an average nesting season of 151 days. As we do every season, we had checked the boxes in mid-March to ensure that all 18 boxes were ready with proper bedding and free of mechanical defects, etc. The last nest visits took place on September 1 when we removed used bedding and replaced it with new white pine shavings. All told, we monitored the fifty-mile-long roadside nestbox trail eleven times, four of which were to band nestlings.

American Kestrel Nestlings 2016 - Photo Dick TuttleOn May 23, we hosted a team of four from the Columbus Dispatch that included journalist Laura Arenshield, and photographers and video recorders Jonathan Quilter, Bernard Mast, and Courtney Hergesheimer. We checked six boxes to band four families. Laura’s article, “Banding Brothers; Retired teachers work to save the Disappearing American Kestrel,” appeared on Page I-2 of the Insight section of the Columbus Dispatch on Sunday, May 29, 2016. The article can still be found on the Dispatch’s website along with a video by Courtney Hergesheimer. It was a fun day as we all worked to promote the conservation of our continent’s smallest falcon. Raptor on!