Keeping Up with the Kestrels 2024: Hatching Eggs

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The Female Kestrel Broods the Chicks
Image by Nest Box Live.

Welcome back to another feather-ruffling update from our live-streamed kestrel nest in Blackpool, UK! It’s been a couple of weeks since our last update and our kestrels have been busy. The devoted kestrel mum has been playing egg-sitter extraordinaire, tending to a precious clutch of five eggs since April 23rd. With an average incubation period of 28-29 days, we had our calendars marked for the big hatching around May 21st.

For those of you following the action live or via our Facebook page, you might have caught the exhilarating moment when the eggs started hatching.

Cracking the Egg-citement

Let’s rewind to the morning of May 20th. The predicted hatching date was approaching and our eyes were glued to the nest for any signs of egg-citement.

The Female Kestrel Spots a Hole in an Egg
Image by Nest Box Live.

Sharp-eyed viewers may have spotted a tiny hole appearing in one of the eggs around 8 am. The first crack in an egg is known as the ‘pip hole’. The chick uses its ‘egg tooth,’ a hard horn-like projection on its beak, to make this hole and eventually chip itself out of the egg. After spotting the pip hole, we knew chick number one was on its way!

Our kestrel mum, ever vigilant, noticed the first signs of life. She helped by delicately expanding the hole with her beak. She continued incubating and around an hour later when she shuffled around, we could see the first chick had made its way completely out of the egg.

What a sight a newly-hatched kestrel chick is! Initially, their white downy feathers are wet and matted, revealing their tiny pink bodies. However, as the hours pass, the feathers dry and fluff up, transforming them into irresistibly adorable fluff balls.

The first chick had just an hour of solo time before being joined by chick number two. Excitement was mounting! Shortly after, the female kestrel took a brief break and proud papa kestrel swooped in to meet his fuzzy offspring for the first time.

Newly Hatched Kestrel Chicks
Image by Nest Box Live.

Lunch is Served on the Kestrel Nest

Chick number three made a grand entrance just after noon, perfectly timed for lunch! As soon as they are born, the chicks open their beaks to expose their gape (the inside of their mouth). This signals to mum that its feeding time. The nutrients from eating their way out of the egg can sustain them for a couple of days, but the chicks want to get as much food as they can at this crucial point in their lives.

Luckily for these food-begging chicks, dad had caught a nice, plump mouse. Mum wasted no time in serving up a feast fit for fledglings. She meticulously tore the flesh into bite-sized pieces, ensuring each chick got their share. Satisfied and full, the chicks quickly drifted off into a cozy food coma.

The Last Two Chicks Arrive

With three healthy chicks nestled in the nest, things were looking great. But what about the last two eggs? Were they going to hatch?

The evening of May 20th came, and our kestrel female settled in for her first night brooding the new arrivals and the remaining two eggs. Kestrel mothers keep their nestlings warm until they develop enough feathers to regulate their own body heat, typically around 10 days after hatching.

Morning brought a delightful surprise—the arrival of kestrel chick number four! The day followed with the four new chicks and the one unhatched egg huddled together under mum. At 10 am the day after, we were delighted to see chick five had hatched.

A complete hatching triumph, and we couldn’t be happier for these feathered parents.

First Few Days of Kestrel Chicks’ Lives

The chicks spent the first few days of their lives being introduced to typical British weather… rain, and lots of it. This posed challenges for both us, trying to peer through raindrops on the camera, and the kestrels. Kestrels avoid hunting in the rain, as prey is less active and harder to spot. However, whenever the rain slowed or stopped for a while, food was still brought into the nest and the chicks were fed.

The Male Kestrel Brings Food for the Nest
Image by Nest Box Live.

Although the male kestrel is not often seen on the cameras, rest assured he is doing his role in raising the chicks. He is the sole hunter at this point in the nestlings’ lives, as mum kestrel needs to spend most of her time brooding them. You may have seen the female kestrel leave for a few minutes from the nest and return back with an often-headless meal. This would have been caught by dad and exchanged by the parents on a perch nearby the nest. We’ve noticed he frequently eats the head off the prey before sharing.

The chicks have been fed solely small mammals so far, and mainly voles, which are the preferred prey of kestrels.

The Latest on the Nest (27/5)

The Kestrel Chicks A Few Days After Hatching
Image by Nest Box Live.

You look away for a moment, and the chicks double in size! It’s now around a week since the first egg hatched. The chicks are unrecognizable since they first emerged from their eggs. Although still fluff-ball-esque, they are stronger and can hold the weight of their heads up more easily. The parents are keeping the chicks well-fed, and mum is still ripping apart the meals for the chicks into bite-sized chunks. These chunks will get bigger as the chicks do, and we’ve even witnessed kestrel chicks in previous years swallowing prey whole!

Kestrel chicks typically fledge after around four weeks, so get ready for some action-packed weeks ahead on the nest. Follow along with the livestream and keep your eyes peeled for the next blog update!

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2 replies on “Keeping Up with the Kestrels 2024: Hatching Eggs”

Is there a video of the eggs hatching? I could swear such a video of these birds but now, I can’t find it. Thanks for these wonderful posts!

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