ZooAmerica Conservation News: Fall 2022

Update on ZooAmerica Nest Box Projects

Barn Owls and American Kestrels are two species of grassland raptors that are declining in Pennsylvania and throughout the continent. Barn Owls have declined by over 50% in Pennsylvania since the 1980s, while Kestrel populations are dropping by about 3% annually across the country. 

One of the simplest ways to help these species is to provide nest boxes in appropriate open grassland habitats. ZooAmerica has installed roughly thirty nest boxes for both Barn Owls and Kestrels in the agricultural land surrounding Hershey. Many boxes are placed on lands owned by the Milton Hershey School, with a smaller number of boxes on privately owned farms. We are busy throughout May checking the boxes for activity. Any chicks are banded before they fledge, and the Milton Hershey School students or families at the private farms are often able to participate. 

Nate McKelvie, a Milton Hershey Middle School teacher and licensed bander, leg bands each chick and records a series of body measurements. This contributes to the body of scientific knowledge for both species. Kestrel chicks are banded when about 21 days old, and barn owls about 45 days after hatching. 

So far this year, we have 21 active kestrel boxes and two active barn owl boxes. This total is up slightly from last year, so we are optimistic about having many chicks to band during the coming weeks.