Printed in Island Park News March 16, 2023
On Saturday evening March 4, 2023 volunteers braved the weather to gather at the Ashton Community Center to build nest boxes for America’s smallest falcon, the American kestrel. The project was sponsored by Henrys Fork Wildlife Alliance (HFWA), and Volunteer Coordinator Caitlyn Wanner spoke briefly about the value of kestrels to farmers and the best places to put up a nest box.
“Kestrels are good friends to farmers,” Wanner said, “and they’re fun to watch hunt. During the summer they tend to hunt within a mile of their nests so the only reason you might not have a kestrel in your area could be because there isn’t a good tree cavity for them to nest in. That’s where the nest boxes come in.”
HFWA provided the materials for the boxes. Students in Denton Perkin’s shop class at SFHS cut the wood beforehand to make it easier to assemble. Participants were allowed to keep the first nest box they built for free, and were encouraged to build a second box that HFWA could sell to raise money for conservation projects.
Kestrels, also called sparrow hawks, weigh about four ounces. They hunt in open fields and meadows and their diet includes large insects like grasshoppers and beetles, lizards, frogs, and small birds and rodents. One research study says, “predators like American kestrels consume numerous crop pests and reduce crop damage.” (NSF Research News March 2018)
Jim McGeever, HFWA board member from Island Park, said he was proud to encourage Wanner in moving forward with organizing this project because it will help educate people about kestrels as well as help farmers control pests with fewer poisons and pesticides.
Wanner says HFWA will assist participants in monitoring and caring for their nest boxes. Records of successful nests and chicks will be uploaded to The American Kestrel Partnership, a project by The Peregrine Fund dedicated to monitoring kestrel populations and solving the mystery of their decline. She hopes to hold a similar kestrel box-building event in Rexburg in a few weeks. Community members who weren’t able to attend the event can purchase a nest box from HFWA at the Ashton and Driggs farmers markets this summer.