Thanks to a joint venture between the Aston Campus Wildlife Group and the RSPB, staff, students and the general public can now keep an eye on the University’s beloved kestrels via a recently installed ‘kestrelcam’ courtesy of Estates & Facilities.
With more wildlife friendly areas in city centres such as the edge of industrial estates left to grow naturally (rich in small mammals and insects), and with countryside areas like Staffordshire and Shropshire not far away, it’s not surprising that Birmingham city centre has become an attractive option for a nesting kestrel.
As part of the RSPB’s ‘Date With Nature’ scheme, the kestrels can now be watched via a live web feed on the Aston website and on the RSPB’s website too.
Louise Pedersen from the RSPB is excited to be working with the University on this project: ‘We can’t wait to be able to show the kestrels to the general public. I guarantee that as soon as the eggs are laid and the chicks hatch, people will be desperate to follow their fortunes!’
Last year, three chicks successfully hatched here at Aston and were fitted with rings by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO). It is hoped that the latest footage will encourage more people to enjoy seeing the latest birds and their young family grow-up in the heart of the city centre.
Carolyn Taylor, founder of the Aston Campus Wildlife Group says: ‘We have a wide variety of flora and fauna on our green campus and the group has been taking a number of steps to ensure the safety of the kestrels’ habitat. It’s fantastic that the RSPB are involved in promoting the well being of these birds.’
Kestrelcam footage will be live on the plasma screen in the Main Building reception from 15 April. Six eggs have now been laid so keep an eye out for further egg laying and hatching!
View the latest action from kestrelcam.
If you would like further information, or to find out how you can get involved, pop along to the Aston Campus Wildlife Group and RSPB information stands in the South Wing foyer on Thursday 22, Friday 23, Thursday 29 and Friday 30 April or visit the Aston Campus Wildlife Group’s new webpage.
A few kestrel facts for you:
They are the most common day-flying birds of prey in Europe
They choose nest sites that are easy to defend against predators, often found in trees and crags and urban buildings can be like an extension of their natural nest sites
Breeding activity starts in February. The female usually lays her clutch of 3-6 eggs in April or early May. Incubation takes 27 – 29 days per egg
Kestrel chicks fledge gradually when they are around four weeks old
Kestrels defend only a small territory immediately around the nest. The larger home range where the birds find most of their food is at least 1km², but can be as large as 10km²
Voles are their most important food although they regularly take other small mammals including woodmice, shrews, small birds, insects and earthworms. They need to eat 4-8 voles a day
They are relatively short-lived birds and mortality among the young birds is high – only around 30% survive the two years to breeding age. Those that do will on average live fo a further two and a half years
The UK kestrel population was estimated at 36,800 breeding pairs in 2000
They are on the RSPB’s ‘Amber List of Birds of Conservation Concern’.
Words by Louise Russell