In March I noted that a pair of American kestrels (Falco sparvarius) appeared to once again be nesting between the outer walls in our hay shed. For many years kestrels, also called sparrow hawks, have raised a brood in our shed (Lookout CA). This year was no exception.
Leonard and I can watch the kestrel pair enter and leave the nest hole. However, since the nest is hidden inside a double, wall we cannot see if there are eggs or if any chicks have hatched. Only when the young kestrels fledge do we know that the pair has successfully raised a family.
American kestrels chose a cavity to build their nest, but are unable to excavate the cavity themselves. Thus an abandoned woodpecker nest, a natural tree cavity, a rock cleft or hollow areas in manmade structures are utilized. They do not use any nesting material but simply lay the eggs on the bottom of their chosen cavity. Four or five white, yellow or light reddish-brown eggs mottled with violet, gray or brown eggs (quite variable) incubate for 26 to 32 days. The chicks are very feeble when born. They have white down sparsely scattered over pink skin. Their eyes partially open in one or two days. After 28 to 31 days in the nest the young kestrels fledge (leave the nest).
The other morning Leonard came in to tell me that the young kestrels were leaving the security of their nest and that one little bird was on the ground. I ran out with my camera and was able to photograph a fledgling kestrel while it gathered its strength before flying off to a safer perch. This little kestrel’s three brothers or sisters were stronger and managed to fly directly onto safer locations. Eventually this juvenile flew off the ground onto a fencepost. Four young kestrels this year!! How wonderful!!
If these birds follow the pattern of previous years the youngsters will remain in the vicinity of our barnyard for about a month gaining strength and learning to fend for themselves. Then suddenly one day they will be gone. Hopefully I can share more pictures of these young kestrels before they strike out on their own.