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.
- ZooAmerica Kestrel Nesting Box ProjectTwo freshly hatched kestrels and several eggs will hatch soon. The brown egg in the foreground is in the process of pipping. Note the crack in the shell.
- ZooAmerica Kestrel Nesting Box ProjectA female kestrel incubating her clutch of eggs. Female kestrels have brown wings
- ZooAmerica Kestrel Nesting Box ProjectA male kestrel and five eggs. Males have blue-gray wings. Both sexes share incubation duties, though this dad seems to be napping on the job.
- ZooAmerica Barn Owl Nesting Box ProjectA barn owl incubating eggs
- ZooAmerica Kestrel Nesting Box ProjectKestrel exiting a nest box, which we placed on the side of a barn on Milton Hershey School property
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.