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29 June 2013

Young Kestrels learning to deal with prey

Kestrel chicks in our nest box in Co. Kerry (filmed under licence: Michael O'Clery).

Here is an extended video of life in our Kestrel nest box, in Co. Kerry.

The camera lens has been partially, ahem, 'white-washed' by one of the chicks, but there are a number of intriguing behaviours to look out for.

Early on in the video, we can see two of the chicks making quick pouncing movements with one foot. This is practicing for when they will use such a technique to immobilise or injure any prey on the ground. They will also make small pounces onto imaginary prey, again rehearsal for the real thing in just a few weeks time.

There are a couple of bouts of wing flapping, and although their wings are not yet fully grown, this will help excercise and strengthen the wing muscles.

Also look out for 'mantling' behaviour. As a food item (looks like a Pygmy Shrew) is delivered to the nest box near the end of the clip, at about 04:25, the lucky chick at the front grabs it and quickly shields it from the other chicks by cloaking it with open wings. This behaviour starts as soon as the chicks are able to feed themselves and becomes ever more pronounced as they develop, and prevents one of the siblings from stealing their meal.

Incidentally, the adults no longer enter the box, but merely deliver prey to the entrance to the first chick to grab it. Blink and you'll miss it!

You can also see one of the chicks nibbling at a stalk (or bit of feather?) but note how they can use their foot to manipulate potential food items.