Press Release written by Mollie Burgett, Middleburgh Kestrel Project
The American Kestrel is a small falcon native to most parts of North America. It feeds primarily on large insects and small rodents. Due to habitat loss and competition from invasive species, American Kestrel populations in our area have declined by an estimated 62% over the past 40 years. That is why students at Middleburgh High School have started a local kestrel conservation program.
It is the Middleburgh Kestrel Project’s (MKP) hope that we can help to keep this amazing bird from being placed on the threatened species list in the years to come. The project started as a suggestion from local wildlife rehabilitator and teacher Wes Laraway. Mrs. Mollie Burgett’s AP Environmental science class was able to build thirty five nest boxes after a generous grant from the West Fulton Rod and Gun Club and assistance with space, tools and equipment training from David Dickerson in MCS’s technology department. It quickly became evident that thirty five boxes would not be enough to meet demand from the community. Students attending the Capital Region Career and Technical School in Schoharie in Mr. Matt Millard’s class constructed an additional twenty four boxes with another batch currently in the making. Wildlife Management students at SUNY Cobleskill have also placed several nest boxes in conjunction with New York Wildlife Rescue Center.
Middleburgh’s environmental science class will be placing 8 boxes around school grounds in the next week and submitting nesting data to the American Kestrel Partnership. The AKP is a national citizen scientist project that is working to research wide-spread kestrel declines and have recognized and praised the work being done by Middleburgh students. The MKP intends to partner with local business and land owners in placing more boxes for monitoring and research purposes. The Middleburgh Kestrel Project is also consulting local wildlife rehabilitator Kelly Martin as well as NYS DEC in the placement and construction of their boxes.
The nest boxes are now up for sale. The $20 cost of each box will be put back into the program and used to buy more building supplies. The boxes measure 18 inches tall, eleven inches wide, and eleven inches deep with a 26 inch back mounting board. Boxes come with predrilled mounting holes, screws, shavings for nest substrate and mounting / monitoring instructions. They can be hung from most trees and poles, ideally 8-12 feet off of the ground, if not higher. Placement near a field is essential with the box ideally oriented south east. The best time to hang boxes is now; just before kestrels begin their northward migration, but can be hung as late as April in order to attract kestrels this year. If you have any questions about the project, or would like to purchase and place a kestrel nest box, or make a donation to the project please contact the Middleburgh Kestrel Project through their e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org