How it all started...
Actually it began with a hole in the building where the fire brigade is based. A greater spotted woodpecker had tampered with the external façade of the fire station in Partschins and pulled out the insulation. A kestrel must have seen the hole and without further ado chose it as a nesting site. Of course a hole in the insulation couldn’t just simply be accepted. Together with the bird expert, Florian Gamper, and the municipality of Partschins, it was decided to repair the damage to the wall and build the kestrels a new home in the form of a nesting box. That completes the first part of the story.
What was not known then was that at almost the same time another pair of kestrels had made their nest in the tower of Partschins Parish Church. However, since in this case the nest was located at a dangerous height, it was decided to mitigate the situation and provide two species-appropriate nesting boxes in the church tower too. This was so that the second pair of kestrels too, and their future offspring, would have a comfortable home that was not at risk of falling to the ground.
Nobody is exactly sure how the kestrels found their way to Partschins. However, it seems that they are very much enjoying the tranquillity and scenic advantages of their new home. And since kestrels are well known for remaining loyal to a nesting site for many years, the chances are that these feathered families will continue to delight us with their presence for a little while longer yet.
For us, the provision of the nesting boxes was a small, but important gesture towards actively protecting nature and the environment and a great opportunity to draw attention to the beauty and distinctiveness of our unique nature. Just being able to experience the kestrel’s hovering flight and special hunting methods from close quarters is a sight not to be missed.
The elegant “wind hover”
Handsome, slender, with lively eyes and unmistakeable when seen in its typical hovering flight standing still in the air before dropping down as swiftly as an arrow onto its prey: the kestrel is, after the common buzzard, the most common bird of prey in central Europe and also native to South Tyrol. Having originally bred on rock faces, today it prefers to settle in proximity to man and colonises old trees, buildings or church towers. It generally favours high-up breeding sites - perhaps its German name - Turmfalke, or tower falcon - can be traced back to this preference.
With a body size of around 35 cm and a wingspan of 75 cm, the kestrel is one of the smaller species of falcon. The male and female have different colouration: male kestrels have an auburn top side with black lozenge patterns and a grey tail and head, while in contrast female kestrels have a more inconspicuous brown plumage and dark bars on their brownish-red back. They are also a little larger than the male of the species. Kestrels prefer to eat mice, closely followed by beetles, insects, lizards and earthworms.
The females lay three to seven eggs between mid-April and mid-May. After a month’s incubation, the young hatch before being fed by their parents for a good four weeks. After this they leave their nest and spend a further four weeks in the company of their parents. Only then are they in the fullest sense of the word “fledged” and seek out their own territory.
The kestrel is still widespread in South Tyrol; nevertheless, in lower areas in particular it has become scarcer and is therefore absolutely worthy of protection.
A big thank you...
...to the municipality of Partschins, to Florian Gamper from the Tirol Castle Bird Care Centre, to Partschins Jugendclub (Youth Club), Patrik Laimer, who maintains our paths, for building and putting up the nesting boxes, to Partschins Voluntary Fire Brigade and all those who have helped to create a new and cosy home for the kestrels here in Partschins.
Foto: Valter Pallaoro