Wood Duck & Kestrel Nesting Projects
Bird Watching on Manchaug Pond
Whatever the season, whatever the weather, Manchaug Pond and its watershed is a great place for bird watching! While on the shore, boating, or just by the campfire, look and listen:
- to the skies for common sightings of eagles, osprey, hawks, and turkey vultures;
- to the water for heron, cormorants, fancy ducks and, occasionally, loons and mute swans;
- and to the land for pileated woodpeckers, wood cock, kingfishers, wild turkey and more;
- in the quiet of the night, listen for the late night/early morning hoo hoo hoooing of owls,
Please be respectful and give these birds room. Do not approach or boat near loons, nesting ducks or visiting migratory birds.
All photos taken in the Manchaug Pond watershed located in the towns of Sutton, Douglas and Oxford, Massachusetts.
Fun fact! Kestrels all have a malar strip - the dark stripe of plumage below their eyes - in order to reduce solar glare reflected into their eyes while they are hunting.
The American Kestrel, also known as a Sparrow Hawk, is a small bird of prey found in a variety of different habitats, but is noted to be the smallest species of falcon in North America.
They commonly prey on smaller animals such as insects, mice, bats, frogs and even smaller birds.
Photo credit - Gregg Thompson
They are approximately the size of a Mourning Dove, spanning between 8-13 inches long and weighing approximately 80-165 grams.
Males and females both sprout elaborate and beautiful plumage, ranging from rusty reds to grays and to a variety of browns.
Adult male kestrels typically display more intricate feather patterns, while female kestrels typically have duller patterns with paler bellies.
Male kestrels are known to have black tails, while females do not.
Their wings are specially shaped for dives and rapid flight, as well as hovering in place for locating prey below them.
Kestrels prefer areas where trees are abundant.
They tend to nest and hunt in open grasslands, farm areas and wooded edges, as well as the occasional desert.
Kestrels prefer areas that are wooded with a variety of perching areas, and during nesting season they tend to nest in areas of open ground.
Photo Credit - sdakotabirds
They are found all throughout North America and even areas of Canada.
American kestrels are not endangered and are even considered least concern, however the decline in open habitat and lack of nesting cavities has led to a slow decline of Kestrel breeding in Massachusetts.
Kestrels have decreased in North American population by approximately 50% and the decline, while the exact reason for their decline is not 100% confirmed, we can work together to help increase the range of this species by placing nesting boxes wherever habitat may be suitable and even decreasing our use of toxic pesticides, which even kestrels seem to fall victim to.
This code here leads to a website detailing kestrel nesting box placements.
Sheet assembled by - Alexis MacKay
Nesting Box Project Checklist
This checklist is to make sure everything is in place and accounted for to complete and finalize the installation process.
Box Installation Check:
- Box is mounted between 9 and 30 feet off the ground.
- Box is installed in open habitat
Where is the box? _______________________________ (tree, building, post)
- Box has an intact predator guard
For quick information on predator guards, check here -> https://nestwatch.org/connect/blog/predator-guards-carry-their-weight/
- Box has minimal nesting material
Ideally 1-3 inches of hardwood bedding
- Box is located in a moderately quiet location
- Box is facing Southeast to avoid harsh winds
Once the boxes are in place, check to see if -
- The pole the box is mounted on is sturdy
If the pole is wobbly or unstable, take appropriate measures to fix!
If the box is not on a pole, do not worry about this step.
- The predator guard is secured in place
- Box is placed at least half a mile apart from any other boxes
If there are no other boxes nearby, do not pay mind to this check.
- There are trees and perching options nearby
Monitoring a Nesting Box (simplified)
It is ideal to monitor nesting boxes set up in late winter as early as March. However, they can still be adequately monitored from April to early July.
Things to Keep in Mind:
- Kestrels have a clutch size of about 3 to 5 eggs.
- Kestrels do not build nests, and instead prefer to lay on soft layers of bedding.
- Make sure the nesting box is routinely checked and any particularly dirty shavings are replaced periodically.
- Image from https://marylandbirds.org/american-kestrel
- Kestrel males will search for an ideal nest 3 to 4 weeks before the nest is actually occupied.
- The female kestrel will determine if the nesting box is ideal.
- When monitoring a kestrel box, they can be checked once every 7 to 10 days to monitor the progress of the nest.
- Note any changes, eggs, or even young hatchlings when encountered on your data sheet.
- Do not monitor more than once a week! Avoid stressing out the kestrels by limiting the monitoring process.
- Avoid monitoring the boxes during the end of the nesting process to avoid premature fledging for the young kestrels.
Things to Watch Out For:
- European Starlings are an invasive species released into the United States from their home in Europe. These birds are particularly fond of nesting box raiding and have been known to nest in monitor boxes, preventing a kestrel from making home.
- If a starling nest is noted, the eggs must be removed and a new layer of bedding should be placed. The eggs are a soft blue in color.
- Starlings have a habit of removing the bedding ideal for Kestrel eggs! Kestrel eggs may not hatch without a soft place to lay.
Pictured - an adult starling. Photo by Matt Davis (https://ebird.org/species/eursta)
- If a nest is noted to belong to a native species that is not a kestrel, the nest can be left alone or removed by choice of the volunteer or head of monitoring.