Spring maintenance works at nest-boxes

All necessary maintenance works have been carried out in winter and early spring on Roller and Red-footed Falcon nest-boxes within the scope of the HU-SRB IPA project.

Nest-box maintenance 1. (Photo: Attila Nagy)

Nest-box maintenance 2. (Photo: Szabolcs Solt)

Red-footed Falcons, like all other falcon species, do not build their own homes, instead they occupy old nests of other birds. The Rook colonies, or rookeries are their favourite, however these enigmatic black corvids have disappeared from large part of their former distribution area. For instance not single rook has bred in Csongrád County in the past two decades. To help resolve the lack of nesting sites for Red-footed Falcons, over 3000 nest-boxes were placed out throughout the Carpathian Basin. These nest-box colonies, however these man-made falcon homes need annual maintenance.

Male kestrel occupying a nest-box (Photo: Attila Nagy)

Long-eared Owl residence (Photo: Attila Nagy)

These nesting facilities provide better protection against harsh weather conditions compared to natural nest however are not as „self cleaning ” as open twig nests. If used in the previous nesting season these structures are often filled with pellets and other unwanted leftovers making the boxes a safe haven for parasites and diseases. It is the responsibility of conservation activists and professionals to ensure that the boxes are not an ecological trap, but are warm and cosy homes of the falcons, by cleaning them out each year.

Kestrel clutch (Photo: Szabolcs Solt)

Long-eared Owl clutch (Photo: Szabolcs Solt)

The original reason for the establishment of the artificial colonies was to provide nesting facilities for the Red-footed Falcon, however other interesting species have shown their interest in the modern homes provided by conservationists. Typically, kestrels, Long-eared Owls and Jackdaws breed in relatively large numbers in the boxes, and all are welcome to share the apartments. All these species commence their breeding before Red-footed Falcons arrive from southern Africa, thus the maintenance works often overlap with the early onset of the breeding of these birds. Encouraging is the fact that both Kestrels and Long-eared Owls have above average broods this year, suggesting that food is plenty in the hunting fields. We all hope that this season will better that of 2010, when low prey densities and catastrophic weather conditions interacted to produce a one of the worst Red-footed Falcon breeding success rates in decades. Anyway, we have renovated their homes and all is clean and ready, its only up to the birds from now on!

We are very grateful for all volunteers helping the maintenance works!