Hunting machines

Headshot of Geoff Vivian
Geoff VivianGeraldton Guardian
Kestrels are efficient little hunters
Camera IconKestrels are efficient little hunters Credit: Richard McLellan

A series on local birdlife by Guardian reporter Geoff Vivian

In August 1993, Janelle and Glenn Ende noticed strange sounds coming from behind a pot plant by their house.

They turned out to be the cries of a kestrel that had fallen from a tree.

With the knowledge they gained from nursing this bird of prey back to health, they started “Just Raptors”, a voluntary service they run from their Waggrakine property.

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They had several kestrels in their care when we visited earlier this month and were willing to share what they had learnt about these fascinating members of the falcon family.

“They will start to lay in July-August, so they will be just starting to prepare the nest at the moment,” Janelle said.

“The father will be doing his best to make sure he keeps his lady nice and happy.”

Janelle said kestrels generally used the same nest each year and often occupied abandoned crows’ nests, or the eaves of sheds.

“They begin to lay from September and they can lay up to six eggs in one clutch but generally four,” she said.

“Dad does all the hunting and Mum does all the incubating but when the chicks are of a decent age, probably about two weeks old, both parents will go out and hunt.”

Janelle said the chicks were fully grown after four to six weeks and began flying lessons at about eight. They were fully fledged at 12 weeks.

They eat insects, mice, small lizards and sometimes small baby birds.

“If they see an insect, they will snatch it with their talons and will eat mid-flight,” Janelle said.

“If it’s a mouse, they will kill on the ground and eat on the ground.”

Janelle said kestrels played a useful part in controlling smaller vermin. “They are not scavengers, they are quite efficient little hunters,” she said.

Anyone who has found a raptor needing rescue should phone Just Raptors on 0429 028 711.

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