LAWRENCE, N.J.-With a little help from a kestrel falcon and a redtail hawk provided by the New Jersey Falconry Club, Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes appeared at Mercer County Park-Northwest this morning to give an update on the progress of falcon nesting boxes installed at the park.
Hughes spoke about the nesting boxes put in place by volunteers, and the need to educate constituents about other County efforts to preserve endangered and threatened species.
"I'm very pleased to report that kestrels have begun to use the boxes," said the County Executive. "Falconers spotted quite a few perching on the boxes over the last few weeks, and just yesterday we found out that several kestrels have begun to nest inside the boxes here in Mercer County Park-Northwest."
Falconry Club volunteers installed a total of four boxes in late February. Two are located in Mercer County Park-Northwest, and an additional two are in Mercer County Park.
Kestrels are diminutive falcons that hunt small mammals such as mice and voles, and even the occasional small bird. The boxes help to shield female kestrels from predators and the elements as they hatch their eggs, which must incubate for approximately one month. In this region, kestrel eggs usually hatch during the first two weeks of June. As the weather warms, said Hughes, the County expects to see an increase in kestrel nesting activity. Once the chicks hatch, the boxes will help to keep them safe as they grow.
Hughes explained that kestrels have just become an endangered species in New Jersey, and that it has thus become more important than ever for County government to take steps to protect and preserve the existing kestrel population.
"Kestrels may be the smallest species of falcon, but here in Mercer County, they play a pivotal role in the health of our environment," Hughes said. "Because they hunt small rodents and other vermin, they help to keep these populations in check and also control the spread of diseases such as rabies."