General Discussion : What to do?

Earlier this week we went out to band 3 nestlings in a box.  When we looked inside, the box was thick with some kind of flying insect, a little gnat of some kind I think. They were flying around in our bucket as we brought the chicks down for banding and crawling around on the chicks, in and out of their feathers.  One bird had about 10 of them all clustered together on one spot on its head.  These nestlings were about 21 days old, growing lots of blood rich pin feathers all over their bodies.  I'm wondering if the gnats were feeding on some of the blood from the feathers.  What to do? 

Since the nestlings were not exactly lethargic, but were certainly the most docile and quiet that we had handled this year, we were worried about their health.  It seemed a shame to put them back into the same filthy, bug infested box.  So we quickly and thoroughly cleaned out the box and added fresh wood shavings before placing the chicks back inside.  I certainly hope this will not disturb the parents!!  The great worry would be if it causes them to abandon the nest.  Has anyone had a similar experience?  Is it best to just return the chicks to the same environment or is it okay to clean out a box before the birds have fledged?


Delorahilleary's picture


The best thing to do would be to leave them alone - parasites are common among young of any species, and young can be more robust than one would think. Cleaning out the bedding was a decent call, and otherwise I would wait and see. At 21 days old, it won't be long before they will be up and active, as they fledge around 30 days. 

Once Kestrels have a brood, they are unlikely to abandon a nest unless something happens to one of the adults. I would definitely note everything you did, and check the nestbox in the future to see what happened. I'm curious what effect the gnats may have had myself!


sacajaweaaudubon's picture

Thanks Delora,  I'll let you know what we find out about the outcome of that nest.  Since then I've had another nest with a gnat infestation but no-where near at the level of the first box.

NM-Kestrel-Laura's picture

What happened to the chicks? Did they make it long enough to fledge?

sacajaweaaudubon's picture

Evidently all the chicks did fledge from the box.  Later when the box was checked for cleaning, there were no dead bodies in the box and we assume all did mature and fledge.  At least one young was seen in the area with the parents shortly after the fledging date.  

NM-Kestrel-Laura's picture

Thank you! Just curious as we also struggled last season with an ant invasion of our box. Our two hatchlings also made it to the fledgling stage. Hopefully also to maturity! Wishing you another successful season of kestrels. :) --Laura

Posted in General Discussion by sacajaweaaudubon 1 year 10 months ago.