Four downy American Kestrel nestlings are tucked into a gravel-bottomed nest near Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin. Their nest box, located on the side of a traditional limestone-footed barn, overlooks a rolling grassland that slopes away into the folded hills and forests of the Driftless. A nearby stream cuts through deeply incised limestone to join the Mississippi river roughly four miles west of the nest. This wonderful combination of grassland, forest, and water has supported kestrels for over 25 years, and is an excellent example of the habitat that kestrels need to survive and thrive.
The young birds began hatching out of their eggs on June 14th, and the remaining egg in the nest is unlikely to hatch at this point. Over the next 3-4 weeks the nestlings will transform from downy bobbleheads to sleek, dull versions of their parents on a diverse diet of invertebrates, small mammals, and birds (watch the female arrive to feed her young in the highlight below). After fledging, the young will continue to be cared for by their parents, remaining near the nest as they learn to hunt and master flight.
In general, the kestrels return to their box in February or March. Egg-laying begins in April or May, and eggs hatch roughly 26 to 32 days after they are laid. The young fledge between 28 and 31 days of age. Like peregrine falcons and bald eagles, American kestrel fledglings remain near the nest before dispersing in late summer. They eat invertebrates, small rodents, and birds including grasshoppers, cicadas, beetles, dragonflies, spiders, butterflies and moths, voles, mice, shrews, small songbirds, small snakes, lizards, and frogs. To learn more about American Kestrels, please visit our partner Cornell Lab of Ornithology at https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/American_Kestrel/lifehistory.
American Kestrel Video Playlist
Click the icon on the top left of the stream to view a full list of videos from our 2018 playlist, or visit our playlist here: