Will they try again this season? E. Washington

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earthbourne's picture
Will they try again this season? E. Washington

As I mentioned in a previous post, the heat wave killed our 3 nestlings. It happened on the hottest day, 6/29/21. I have had a trail cam capturing video clips with sound of the box since the pair began nesting, so I can see when the chicks were no longer responding to arrival of prey, which was around 11AM. I also have clips of the following morning when the female started removing the dead chicks from the box. In less than an hours time, she had removed all 3 dead chicks, along with various prey items. The male contintued to bring prey to the box and the female would often chase him away.

When I went out to actually look in the box at the end of the day on 6/30/21, the female had cleaned it out entirely except for the two unhatched eggs remaining. Is there any chance that they may try again, considering the female spent a fair amount of time cleaning the box out? Seems highly unlikely considering how late it is in the season.

I have cleaned the box out and put fresh straw inside.

If the video clips showing the female removing the dead chicks are valuable in any way, I can provide the to you. Maybe this is something not often seen, since chicks dying from extreme heat like this is not common.

Needless to say, I'm heartbroken.

AKP-Matthew's picture

First off, let us say that we're also heartbroken to hear of the loss of these nestlings. Kestrels are typically hearty creatures, so to hear that the recent heat wave was too much for these nestlings is a testament to how harsh these conditions were.

We will be very interested in all of the data gathered by our partners within the recent "heat dome," as this data gives us something of a glimpse into the future. While these conditions were largely unprecedented, climate change is expected to make them increasingly common. How the 2021 heat dome affected kestrel breeding success in the Pacfic Northwest could be indicative of the climate-related challenges kestrels will be facing in the future.

It's impossible to say what will happen next at your box. Typically when a nest is lost, the pair do not try again in the same nest cavity. The pair may move elsewhere, or they may split up. In these cases the female typically finds a new mate at a new nest cavity, while the male either does the same or remains at the same nest cavity to try to attract a new female. It is late in the year for a new nesting attempt, but not impossibly so—kestrels have been observed initiating nesting attempts as late as mid-July.

That said—kestrels don't read field guides. Even now, nine years into our program, we're still consistently surprised by behavior reports from our partners. The "cleaning" behavior you observed is indeed intriguing, and we would be interested to see the videos if it wouldn't be too much trouble to send them. We're curious to see your upcoming data to see if another nesting attempt will occur in the near future.

A final thought... if your box doesn't currently have ventilation holes, you could consider adding those during the offseason. Drilling a few 1/4" holes just under the roof along the two sides of the box provides a little extra airflow without allowing too much precipitation into the nest cavity. This obviously means the box is less protected on cold or rainy days, and some sources report this can lead to increased insect pest activity within the box, so ventilation holes are used less commonly in the northern part of the continent where heat is less of an issue. But given what occurred this year, it may be worth considering.

Again, our condolences for the loss of these nestlings. We know how easy it is to get attached to these little guys when you're watching them every step of the way—and how heartbreaking it is when we're reminded of just how unforgiving nature can be.

AKP Staff

earthbourne's picture

I uploaded a compiled video showing the female removing the dead chicks. Posted a link in another message.

I am planning on building a new nest box for next year. I'll do my best to maximize shade and ventiation. I did drill holes in the box that failed and it had gaps on the sides and lid. Maybe more ventilation holes would have helped, but it was so terribly hot it's hard to know for sure.

Nu-Sun Cinema
Nu-Sun Cinema's picture

Hi Earthbourne,

We have a simple nest box plan on our 2021 report page. It has been modified over the years and has traits no other will have.

The plans have a material list and all needed. There is also a stop motion video of the boxes we use to house our 2 cameras.

Please feel free to look and we hope you will build the nest box from our plans. There is a wealth of other info on this page that may help your quest.

Here is the link   http://www.nu-sun.com/html/2021_report.html

Again we are sorry about your nestlings, but in reviewing your video the nest box has no ventilation

which could be one of the problems.

Hope you have a nice day,

Nu-Sun Cinema,  Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

earthbourne's picture

THANK YOU Nu-Sun!! I was going to ask you about your nest boxes. I'd like to add camera/s to next year's box, so your information will certainly be very helpful!

Our box actually had more ventilation than is obvious and winds were constant during the heat wave. There are sizable gaps between panels and top and holes drilled into the bottom. But, yes, after what happened this year, in this area even more ventilation is needed, especially since it seems to be getting hotter and hotter every year.

Thank you again!

Nu-Sun Cinema
Nu-Sun Cinema's picture

Just a reminder about our 2 camera nest boxes. The sizes of boxes on the stop animation are for our specific cameras.

Here is a link to the camera specs,  http://www.nu-sun.com/html/live_page.html

Many adjustments and experiments were done. You must build the box size to accommodate the camera lens size and not all cameras are the same. We would suggest once you have your cameras to make carboard test boxes and check how well your cameras are covering the the field of view.

Nu-Sun Cinema   Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.