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In early spring, two migrating kestrels return to their breeding grounds to find both a nest site and a mate. This male is courting his girlfriend by vocalizing with a chirrup and offering gifts...but his gifts are nothing like ours! Kestrels prefer dead animals over chocolates.
By April our kestrel pair has settled into a cozy nestbox, where the female lays five eggs. Eggs can’t make their own heat, and they can’t develop into chicks if they’re cold. This is where mom comes in. ‘Round the clock for a whole month, she and the male share incubation duty until their eggs hatch.
When our kestrel chicks first hatch they are tiny and weak, barely able to even open their eyes. How can they possibly muscle their way out of an egg? It’s all about the right tools: if you look closely you’ll find a sharp, temporary “egg tooth” on top of their beaks, and it’s perfect for poking through shell.
We all know that growing human children are hungry, but think about kestrels: they shoot from egg- to adult-sized in only one month! It’s no wonder that their parents hunt for meals rather feverishly.
It’s been a month since our kestrel nestlings hatched, and several of them have “fledged,” or left the box. But imagine trying to fly for the first time...they aren’t very good at it! Luckily their parents will keep providing for them until each fledgling learns to hunt like an expert.
Young kestrels have spent a summer perfecting their hunting skills, and they are ready to leave for migration. But not all do! Kestrels don’t mind cold weather, so if they can find insects, mice or other prey, they won’t bother traveling to warmer climates. Do you see prey animals during the winter where you live? If so, kestrels may still be hunting nearby.
The American Kestrel Partnership is a project ofThe Peregrine Fund
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