Press-Republican

Wednesday

December 12, 2012

DOT partners to enhance kestrel habitat

ALBANY — The New York State Department of Transportation has partnered with Audubon New York and its chapters to enhance American kestrel habitat and build greater awareness of these declining birds in upstate New York.

Through this program, new kestrel nest boxes have been installed across the state, and informational displays have been set up at two rest areas in the bird’s prime habitat.

“The State Department of Transportation is committed to building and maintaining our transportation system in a sustainable manner that minimizes impacts on the environment and preserves wildlife habitats,” DOT Commissioner Joan McDonald said in a news release.

About the size of a robin, the American kestrel is North America’s smallest falcon and prefers to breed and hunt in meadows, pastures and farmland.

Wintering in the south-central portions of the United States and Central America, kestrels migrate north in the spring, nesting in areas throughout upstate New York.

However, due to in part the loss of their grassland habitat, their populations have been in decline recently.

“American kestrels are a charismatic species that need our help, and we commend NYSDOT for joining us in this strong public-private partnership to give these birds a fighting chance,” Albert E. Caccese, executive director of Audubon New York, said in a statement.

“Through our network of nature centers and chapters, this collaborative project has engaged hundreds of New Yorkers in conserving this declining species, and with the nest boxes and displays at DOT rest areas, even more will learn about kestrels and the importance of grassland habitat in New York.”

The interpretive panels have been installed at the Preble rest area, located along northbound Interstate 81 in northern Cortland County, and at the Chautauqua Lake rest area, located along eastbound Interstate 86 in Chautauqua County. Pole-mounted nest boxes have been installed in open fields near these rest areas to provide enhanced habitat.

Kestrels actively nest between April and June and, while territorial during the breeding and nesting season, they are not aggressive towards humans.

Through Audubon’s American Kestrel Project, more than 200 nest boxes have been built and installed across the state. Upkeep and monitoring of the boxes will be conducted by Audubon volunteers.

For more information on the Kestrel Project visit: http://ny.audubon.org/american-kestrel-project.

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