I am pleased to report that my third year of hosting an American Kestrel nest box was a great success. Right on schedule, a kestrel couple began visiting the nest box in the middle of February. I suspected this was the same couple that used the nest box last year since kestrels often reuse nest sites, especially if they have successfully raised a brood there previously. I enjoyed watching this kestrel pair hunt and mate frequently throughout March and began my biweekly nest box checks in early April. When the time comes to lay eggs, the female will lay an egg approximately every 48 hours, so it takes a week or more before a clutch is complete. By the end of April, I was rewarded with five speckled brown eggs. Since incubation lasts about 30 days, I expected nestlings to be present on my May 28th nest check and, sure enough, I was greeted by four fuzzy little heads huddled on top of the one remaining egg. As it turns out, this egg never hatched and was probably infertile.

Tuk Jacobsen, the raptor management coordinator from AZGFD, arrived on the morning of June 12 to band the chicks. The banding protocol includes checking the weight and overall health of each nestling. This data is reported to the American Kestrel Partnership, a nationwide organization dedicated to kestrel conservation. Tuk estimated the youngest chick was about 18 days old and all four chicks were healthy and within the expected weight range. There were three males and one female.

Fledging occurs about 30 days after hatching, often over a period of several days. Although I did not witness the fledglings leaving the nest box, I was delighted to see this banded male, below, watching me from a nearby Cottonwood tree on the morning of June 22. Over the following weeks, I frequently observed interactions between the parents and one or more of the juveniles, including the parents’ outrage when a Great Horned Owl visited the neighborhood one morning. Although I haven’t seen any of the young kestrels since July, the parents continue to visit from time to time. I miss seeing them every day but I look forward to their return next February. In the meantime, if you happen upon a kestrel with legbands, please report your sighting and location to contact@prescottaudubon.org.