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Kestrels at home in Gould Farm pastures


Photo shows an adult male, originally hatched in Goshen, CT, caught during BBO's songbird migration monitoring at Jug End State Reservation in Egremont, MA.

This past Saturday, Berkshire Bird Observatory (BBO) president & executive director,

Ben Nickley (blue shirt), and board secretary, Ben Barrett (red), met with farm team

manager, Matthew McMahon, to install a kestrel nesting box in one of Gould Farm's

pastures. Below is what we learned from Ben about kestrels and BBO’s efforts to

help conserve them.



BBO is putting up boxes up throughout South County in collaboration with organic

farmers, local non-profits, community members, and town and state governments to

bolster kestrel populations in our region.


Once common in New England, these spectacular little falcons have experienced steep

population declines across the Northeast—nearly 70% over the last 50 years. As cavity-

nesters, kestrels rely on structures, like large dead trees, to house their chicks, and lack

of suitable sites is thought to be a contributing factor to the decline. “The good news is,

like bluebirds, kestrels readily use constructed nest boxes so there is a real opportunity

to support their populations by providing this—often limiting—resource in otherwise

suitable habitat. To help inform kestrel conservation more broadly, BBO participates in

the American Kestrel Nest Box Project—sharing the data we collect with scientists from

The Peregrine Fund, which contributes to continent-wide population analyses,” notes

Ben.


BBO installs the boxes on host sites with adequate open habitat (~30 acres), monitors

them 4 times a year, cleans (including removing invasive nesters), and maintains them—all

for free. Kestrels typically lay 4-5 eggs and it takes about a month for the chicks to

fledge; before this happens, the organization bands the chicks for tracking purposes. To date, BBO has installed 41 Kestrel boxes—fledging 18 chicks and 31 chicks, respectively, in

2022 and 2023.


As with all species, kestrels play an important role in their habitats—including eating

crop pests (grasshoppers, mice), thereby providing ecosystem services to people too.


Matthew shared that, "Gould Farm is excited to learn more from BBO about how these birds interact with the farmscape ecology throughout the season and appreciates the ability to partner with BBO". 

To learn about how you can help Kestrels or for more information about BBO's bird

conservation projects visit, www.berkshirebirds.org (website under construction at publishing time of this blog post), and check them out on social media at @berkshire_bird_observatory.


[Post text/background; kestrel photos courtesy of BBO. Box installation photos by Matthew, Ben N. or Ben B.]

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