Bringing the Orphans In Out of the Rain
This year American Kestrel fledglings have needed our help more than in past years. The unseasonably wet spring was very hard on this year’s youngsters. Because of the weeks of consistent spring rain, we received countless fledglings that had been recovered from various nest sites. Many of them were caked with the foul-smelling contents of their nests. The excessive rainfall resulted in nest cavities and human-made nest boxes becoming overburdened by moisture. The water mixed with the remains of pellets, feces, and leftover meals, and the mixture turned into a paste-like substance that covered feathers, feet, and faces. Many of the nestlings left their nests early, probably trying to escape the filth. This left them vulnerable on the ground, covered in the hardened material. Many of these orphans were too young to preen their feathers clean, several had secondary infections, and others could not even use their feet properly.
Week after week, we took in nestling and fledgling kestrels. We bathed them gently and placed them in warm incubators. We also needed to treat many with antibiotics and we gave them all fresh nutritious meals. Most of these youngsters grew strong quickly and were able to go to our flight cages. For weeks these birds enjoyed stretching their wings and learning how to fly and hunt. Now, they’re all ready to be released. We released the first 15 kestrels in mid-July, watching as these young, healthy, and clean birds took to the sky once more. Three more cages of kestrels are also ready to be released in the near future!
To avoid problems like this with your own nest boxes, consider cleaning them out once a year either before nesting season in late winter/early spring or after the residents have left in late summer/early fall. Remove solid material from the interior of the box and spray the interior with a solution of 10 parts water to 1 part bleach. This will ensure that your nesting box will stay clean and disease-free for many years to come.