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Reprise 4: Kestrel Photoshow

April 9, 2020

Editor’s Note: Entry number four in our tenth anniversary trip down memory lane was originally posted July 7, 2013, and is fifteenth in popularity. Our readership then was about 1/8th, or maybe 1/16th what it is now, and – for us – went viral with over 1100 hits. [Please stop laughing.] This Kestrel nest box project is still in operation with the participation of (mostly) the same people.

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Go to the blog to see all 21 pictures in the slideshow.  For the most part the photos are self-explanatory.

With two exceptions, the photos were taken on June 17, 2013. Two nests were involved, with significant age differences between the two groups of nestlings.

Kestrel Team Leader, Don McCartney, provided the following comment on Kestrel chick meals, which sheds light on some of the pictures.

Quite a handful - now I know why the parents build nests (Don & Diana Roberts 6/17/13)

Quite a handful – now I know why the parents build nests
(Don & Diana Roberts 6/17/13)

We have documented some of the rather amazing eating habits of nestling Kestrels. One photo, taken in Wisconsin in 2005, shows an approximately 18-day old female slooowly devouring a snake. Another photo shows a little glutton on the Crooked River Ranch, who was being retrieved for banding from its nestbox by volunteer Marilynne Keyser. Several photos show close-ups of the bird as it devours a western fence lizard. It’s too bad that we didn’t have the time to check on the progress of the nestling/lizard situation a day or two later.

Looks like a western fence lizard (Don & Diana Roberts 6/17/13)

It’s a western fence lizard
(Don & Diana Roberts 6/17/13)

How do they do this? Once the chicks reach a certain size, the adults drop the intact reptile in the box rather than tearing them to pieces. Specialized mouth parts, including the median ridge, keep the prey progressing inward while allowing the nestling to breathe. It is very often interesting to check the remains of prey in the boxes to discover the animals on which the Kestrels have been dining.

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Photographers Don & Diana Roberts live in the small town of Prineville, northeast of Bend, Oregon, just east of the central Cascade Mountains. Don is a professional fly fisherman, photographer and writer; Diana is an avid birder and photographer, as is Marilynne Keyser, the intrepid bird-handler in many of the photos. The fellow in the straw hat and holding the ID booklet is Don McCartney; when Jim Anderson isn’t checking wings and ringing  the legs of  birds, he’s resting in his portable lawn chair.    [Chuck Almdale]

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