This weekend provided perfect weather to complete the job of installing a kestrel nest box and a barn owl nest box in Cornville, Arizona where we released grown up “orphan” kestrels and barn owls. With a biologist keen eye we located the perfect spots for easy hunting and the perfect orientation for the installation.
We know that when rehabilitating and releasing birds of prey half of the job is putting them in a place that is compatible to their needs. If the release is an adult we try to always take them back to the area where they were found…if it is still good habitat. During the breeding season we try to get the adult back as soon as possible in the off chance that there is a mate and even a nest that might need some help. The habitat is also known to them…the favorite spots to locate prey, water, roosting sites and the nesting sites. If the raptor is an orphan they will get driven out of their parent’s territory unless they are Harris’ hawks. Harris hawks unique natural history allows the babies to stick around and help with next year’s babies.
With kestrels and barn owls habitat destruction has made it difficult for them to find appropriate territories that fulfill all of their basic needs. They are cavity nesters and tree cavities seem to be in greater demand that in existence in many areas. As a result we encourage adding nest boxes (manmade cavities) that will provide them protection from the elements and a place to raise their babies.
You may recall that one of the outcomes of our Intersession class at Phoenix Elementary Schools was the assembling of kestrel nesting boxes to be added to areas lacking cavities for these little falcons or perhaps a lucky screech owl.
We want to stress that sticking a box up anywhere isn’t the answer. The best location for these nest boxes should be studied. They should be 15-30 feet up a tree or a pole. The boxes should be oriented east, north east or south east, never west. Shade in the desert is important. If on a pole, a sheet metal plate mounted under the bottom of the box will keep many predators out of the nesting cavity. If the box can face an open meadow or field the birds will have a ready-made spot for hunting and the piece de la resistance would be a snag or even a wire or power pole providing a spot from which to spot prey. Finally the poles and other nest boxes should at best be a half mile apart to allow a territory large enough to satisfy the needs of a growing family.
If this is something you might be interested in, you can find plans for building the boxes or you can even order a completed box replete with wood shavings and hanging gizmos. If you think you have the necessities for attracting and providing for a kestrel family, do your part to help this beneficial little falcon find a cavity to call home. What a great addition to a wildlife friendly yard. What a great way to attack the insect and rodent problems that you “might” have, in a totally not toxic way.
What a great way to enjoy wildlife close to home!
This Week @ Liberty
The total for the year is now at 5026!!! Well, we knew it was coming, but we passed the 5k milestone last week, and we still have over six weeks to go this year. It is ironically fitting that we hit this achievement in what will most likely be our last full year in this location. I hope all volunteers that put in the long hours, hard work, and heartfelt dedication that it took to reach this point feel as proud of their accomplishments as Liberty feels for them! This week we took in an RTH covered with oil/tar from a roofing project, we see a couple examples of our far-reaching educational efforts in the valley and surrounding areas, and we lose another old friend. Lastly, progresses made at the location of the new facility. Let’s jump into it…
Last Tuesday was Veteran’s Day and the parade in Downtown Phoenix was one of the best in the country – given the weather in the rest of North America! As usual, Joe and Aurora were headliners and got rave reviews by everyone who attended.
Another recent Education Presentation by Liberty and the Ed Team was at the Phoenix Summit Challenge and U Rock Festival. Several of Liberty’s educational ambassadors were in attendance and gave the kids – and the adults – something to remember. Where else can you get up-close and personal with hawks, vultures, and falcons?
Last week a red tail hawk showed up after having been found on a building that was having some roof work done. It was apparent that the hawk had somehow gotten involved in the oily tar that was part of the roofing process and was entirely coated with the sticky substance. The biggest danger is that the bird will try to preen it’s feathers and ingest the toxic oil so speed is of the essence. Copious quantities of Dawn detergent was used to get the worst of the stuff off, after which the bird was allowed to rest and de-stress. As of last Tuesday, he was doing better but not yet out of the woods.
This little flicker arrived presenting a fractured wing and received a sporty pink wrap from the team on duty in the ICU. One person is assigned the “Hold the beak so we don’t get stabbed” duty while the other did the actual work.
A Harris’ hawk with a case of canker was reviewed last Tuesday by Dr. Wyman. After the determination was made that the bird was negative for the disease, he was given a band and allowed to be transferred to an outside enclosure on his way towards eventual release.
The little Harris’ hawk I rescued during the Rummage Sale was X-rayed by Dr. Sorum last weekend. The radiograph showed that all three major bones in it’s left wing were fractured. The radius and ulna were pretty well aligned but the humorous will most likely need a pin to hold it in place while the young bird heals. This is one of the local family of HaHa’s that resides in the trees just north of the facility.
One of our oldest kestrels, Quintus, died peacefully in his sleep last week. Quintus arrived in 2002 and spent the next 12 years doing hundreds of educational shows with various Liberty volunteers and teaching countless children and adults about birds in general and falcons in particular. He was a stalwart trooper, doing shows right up until the end and was scheduled to do a performance the morning he passed away. “Vale, mihi erat amicus, quod aucella”
Progress might seem slow, but it’s steady! The paving of Elwood in front of Liberty’s new home was finally begun last week. Some finishing touches need to be completed and then the landscaping comes. Hopefully this means the real construction will not be far away.