The Honeymooners

I was running this morning on the greenway along Kings Road.  It was a beautiful and quiet morning along the street with very few cars on the road.  Even in the bird world it was fairly quiet.  A bunch of titmice were singing here and there, a few Red-bellied Woodpeckers along the way.  And then, out of the quiet, I heard a screechy ‘kee kee kee’ which made me look up to see a pair of American Kestrels flying over the King’s Pointe shopping center.  They were close to each other and flying in tight circles.  One of the birds even had some vegetation in its talons.   I stopped my run to watch them circle around for a minute and then they both landed on the King’s Pointe sign.  Apparently that building is now zoned for mixed-use, because those birds proceeded to move into a little hole right near the apex of the triangle that makes up the King’s Pointe sign (just to the right edge of the red square on the sign).

Kestrels are cavity nesters, but they are a funny kind of cavity nester.  They don’t actually build their own.  These particular kinds of animals are called ‘secondary cavity nesters’.   Now, a bird like a kestrel would often end up in old woodpecker holes or natural tree cavities.  Out west, they often nest in crevices in cliffs.  These industrious little birds apparently found that hole in the sign made for a good spot.  I suppose it’s got good lighting (and an exciting night-life) and great access to the greenway.   The lighting feature is, apparently, an important feature of their nest choices.  Birds that nested in areas that provided more access for the nestlings to light had higher fledging rates (more kids).

Rohrbaugh, R.W., Jr and R.H. Yahner.  1997.  Effects of macrohabitat and microhabitat on nest-box use and nesting success of American Kestrels. Wilson Bulletin 109:  410-423

It’s an interesting choice for a cavity-nesting bird to make.  They want a spot that is both completely protected and enclosed, but that is not in an enclosed habitat.  So, next time you’re walking home from Trader Joe’s (or Dunkin Donuts) on the greenway, stop and look for the happy couple.


About thomasbiology

I'm an Associate Professor of Biology at Queens University of Charlotte with a background in animal behavior with an emphasis in bird song. I've got two secret goals with this blog (well, since I'm sharing them, they're not so secret): 1. To encourage people to look at the natural world around them- not just as a hiking destination, but to notice all the little things moving around them all the time; and 2. To show some of the science that relates to these little things moving around. There's some really fascinating research out there that so few people get to see.
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