Looking after kestrel chicks in the Chilterns Countryside

Fluffy kestrel chick at 18 days old being safely held by the feet for ringing

The Chilterns Countryside rangers were very excited to see eggs in their kestrel nest box this year. They’ve been following their progress from the ranger office via a nest-cam.

Kestrels like farm land and will generally nest in tree holes, on old buildings or pylons. They lay a clutch of 4-5 eggs, of which 3-4 chicks will usually fledge.

For the first 14 days only the male brings in food and after that the female may lend a hand. It’s hard work as they’ll bring the chicks around 13 meals per day, including small mammals such as voles and shrews, birds and insects.

Why ring the chicks?

In early July, licensed BTO bird ringers from Bisham Barn Owl Group came to fit rings to the 18 day-old chicks. Despite his grumpy look, it doesn’t hurt the birds and they go on to live normal lives. Ringing is carried out in order to identify the birds individually. It allows us to monitor their annual survival rates, longevity, breeding success and how far they range.

This is important in case the population declines as the data would help identify where in the life-cycle the problem lies.

Kestrels have declined significantly over the last few decades. Conservation experts are investigating a number of factors for this, including habitat change/loss, lack of prey, rodenticides, increased competition for nest sites from jackdaws and predation by buzzards.

Kestrel hunting in the south park
Kestrel hunting
Kestrel hunting in the south park

Here in the Chilterns Countryside, the nest box chicks are doing well and will fledge when they’re 4-5 weeks old. Hopefully, the parents will be back to nest again next year.