The gift of birdwatching: American kestrel

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Four 30-day-old American kestrels are nestling in a nest box. Photo by Mike Havlik

“Killy-killy-killy!” A dove-sized falcon swoops up from the ditch and lands on a power line, pumping his tail three times.

This week’s Gift of Bird Watching species is the American kestrel, one of the most visually stunning birds you will ever see.

You can view them along Dallas County roadways, especially near nest boxes. Located on utility poles, the boxes provide an artificial cavity for the birds to raise young.

In late April, they are starting to lay eggs. By the first of June, the young will hatch and, by early July, the entire family can be seen on fence posts and hay bales foraging for mice.

Nationally, kestrels are declining, but in Iowa their numbers are increasing, largely due to nest box programs. You can even build your own American kestrel box!

Mike Havlik is a naturalist with the Dallas County Conservation Department.

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