Another June weekend meant more American Kestrel chicks to band! On June 23, Ed, Nick and Frances travelled to the Alpena area once again to meet up with Arnie Pokorzynski. 28 chicks were banded. On June 24 we visited next boxes in Cheboygan and Emmet counties. We banded 5 more chicks. Several nest boxes we checked contained chicks too young to band. We will revisit these boxes in the coming weeks with the hopes of banding their inhabitants.
Aside from banding these Kestrels, one of our objectives has also been to collect data to contribute to the American Kestrel Partnership’s genoscaping project. This project aims to compile genetic information about Kestrels around America. To do this, we collect two breast feathers from one nestling per clutch, which will be sent to a lab to be analyzed. The goal is to create a map that geographically differentiates subpopulations of Kestrels based on base pairs found in their DNA sequence. This will better help us understand the specific migratory routes of different populations within the species.
Here we compare two nestmates. This photo illustrates the differences between female (the bird on the left) and male (the bird on the right) Kestrels. These nestlings are 23-25 days old and resemble miniature adults at this stage.
This female is close to fledging. American Kestrels leave the nest around 31 days after hatching, but parental care continues after fledging for about another week.
A few of the boxes we checked this last weekend contained chicks too young to band. We will wait until at least 13 days after hatching to band these chicks. This will give their feathers time to emerge and will allow us to determine their sex.
Ed, Frances and Nick work together to retrieve a clutch of 5 feisty chicks accompanied by Steve Baker and Kathy Bricker of MSRW. (Photo credit: Steve Baker)
As we gear up for another weekend of banding, we thought we would share some of the American Kestrel photos we have taken thus far.
Several of the nest boxes we checked in the last two weekends contained eggs or chicks too young to band. With Kestrels, waiting until at least day 13 after hatching allows feathers to emerge enough from the sheath for us to reliably sex them. It’s easy to sex the nestlings because males have blue-gray wing feathers while females exhibit a rufous color.
American Kestrel clutch sizes generally range from 4-6 eggs which the female Kestrel incubates for about 28 days.
This male nestling is about 18 days old.
At about 20 days old, this male nestling has lost a lot of down and the feathers of his juvenile plumage are quickly emerging!
Sometimes we have to climb ladders.
We are looking forward to checking on a lot more Kestrel nest boxes this weekend and will soon have many more photos to share!
Nick, Ed, and I holding a clutch of 5 nestlings after banding and collecting data on them.
MSRW volunteers Ed Pike, Nick Alito, Francis Whalen and Selena Creed are working with the Am. Kestrel Genoscape Project. They are banding Am. Kestrels, adults and nestlings, and collecting feather samples for DNA testing at a lab at Boise State University. Last Friday, June 16, with the help of Arnie Pokorzynski from Alpena; Ed, Nick, Francis and Selena went to the Alpena area and banded nestlings from 6 nest boxes, a total of 36 nestlings banded. On Sat. June 17 Ed, Nick and Francis checked nest boxes in the Emmet and Cheboygan County area on private property and on Little Traverse Conservancy properties. Five more nest boxes were checked and 7 nestlings were banded. One nest still had eggs and one nest had nestlings too young to band which will require a return trip. A fun couple of days working with Am. Kestrels.
Heavy fog and misting rain delayed the count all morning. It finally cleared around 1:00 PM and I got in an hour of watching before misting rain started again and reduced visibility. Unfortunately, no hawks moved by in that time. Tomorrow is the last day of the count for this season and the weather looks much more reasonable.
The Broad-wingeds continue to trickle in. It was pretty nice today despite a fairly strong east wind all day. Interestingly, it was the Turkey Vultures who hesitated to cross the Straits rather than Broad-wingeds. Thankfully, all the raptors crossed eventually. Hard to say how tomorrow will pan out with a northerly wind.
Turkey Vulture – 52
Bald Eagle – 1
Broad-winged Hawk – 126
Common Loon – 1
With just a few days left of the count, there are still a handful of birds moving through. June 1 started quite nice but unexpected afternoon rain shut the modest movement down. Today was supposed to be west winds all day but instead it was northeasterly until late afternoon. This was a nice change of pace since the previous few days of west winds had been pushing birds way to the east side of Mackinaw City, mostly out of my view. Today the raptors were often right over head.
Turkey Vulture – 11
Broad-winged Hawk – 53
Red-tailed Hawk – 1
Turkey Vulture – 39
Bald Eagle – 1
Northern Harrier – 1
Broad-winged Hawk – 177
Red-tailed Hawk – 5
Merlin – 1
Unfortunately movement never picked up after the morning rain had stopped. I only managed a total of 2 Turkey Vultures. It’s really a shame because in the final days of the count, we can’t afford days like these if we want to improve our season totals. Tomorrow seems like it could be a decent day, hopefully the moderately strong winds don’t hurt the movement too much.
Turkey Vulture – 2