Area Closed

Falco sparveriusThe signs are back up at the grasslands at Floyd Bennett Field. This doesn’t stop everybody, but they are better than nothing. Stay off the grasslands. Leave them to the Kestrels (Falco sparverius). This is a male, with blue on the wing.Falco sparveriusThe signs are a handy perch. These birds hunt by hovering over the ground, facing the wind, scanning below. Three birds were present on both days of the weekend. These are minimal numbers; they move about a good bit. We watched one catch something, carry it to a post, and then eat it by bringing its bill to its extended foot. It was small and dark, perhaps a beetle.Falco sparveriusAmerican Kestrels are our smallest falcon, about the size of a Mourning Dove. There are a fair number in the city; in fact, they seem to be doing better in urban areas than in the countryside, where numbers are declining. One reason may be the removal of potential nest sites in the countryside, where the old trees they use are often cleared away. (You can put up Kestrels nest boxes to offer more options.) The city, at least this city, is full of potential nest sites: they favor unkempt cornices of 19th century buildings. (The featureless facades of glass and steel are useless for this, as other things.) Bob DeCandido’s survey found 75 nests in NYC, including 25 in Manhattan, including one I found on 17th St. Insects are a primary source of food, but they also hunt small mammals, birds, and other vertebrates. I first became aware of Italian Wall Lizards (Podarcis sicula) in the city when I saw a photograph of a Kestrel returning to its nest with one of the lizards dangling from its claws.

So the signs are up, but there’s little enforcement. Meanwhile, they were clearing away some dense habitat — great for sparrows, thrushes, Cat birds, etc. — next to the sports fields. Not sure what’s going on, but it wasn’t good the the animals.

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