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Kestrel Nest Camera | Saving the Chicks after the Tragic Loss of their Mother

Kestrel Nest Camera | The Final Chapter | Saving the Kestrel Chicks

A Story of Tragedy and Rescue

Days after all five kestrel chicks hatched there was a tragic turn of events in the story of this kestrel family. Keep reading to find out what happened and scroll down to watch a film about this tragic tale.

The chicks were just a day old when I noticed their mother slumped in the nest. I watched the screens carefully that night but when I woke up the next morning she was lying motionless, the chicks trapped beneath her. I rushed out to the nest. She had died in the night. 

Scroll down to watch a short film about how I rescued the chicks and see them fly free.

I had to work quickly since the chicks were too tiny to survive on their own. I lifted her off and carefully took the chicks out from under her. Tucking all five two-day-old chicks into my jumper to keep them warm, I carried them inside and quickly found a box and a heated mat to put them in whilst I made arrangements for my local wildlife rehabilitation centre, Ryedale Rehabilitation, to take them in.

Kestrel chicks cannot survive at such a young age without their mother since although the male does bring in food for his growing family, it is the female that tears this up into tiny morsels and feeds it to her the chicks. I still do not know the cause of the adult female kestrel’s death and sadly, despite my best efforts, two of the chicks also died before they reached the rehabilitation centre.

rescue of kestrel chicks

But the remaining three chicks thrived and over the course of the next few weeks grew into healthy young birds. When they were four weeks old I got them back from the rehabilitation centre ready to be released into my garden.

They spent a week on my porch whilst I built an enclosure for them on top of a tower. I wanted them to be able to see the garden from this enclosure so that they would think of it as home. They spent about a week in this new enclosure, then, when they were six weeks old the day came to release them.

rescue of kestrel chicks

kestrel chick rescueI opened the door to the enclosure and watched them hop out with surprising confidence. It was an incredible feeling to watch them as they flew free over the trees at the edge of my garden. These chicks had survived such a disastrous start and here they were now flying free on the wing. Then something even more incredible happened: after resting on the branch of a tree and testing themselves on the wing once more, all three fledglings flew back to the tower I had released them from. This was important because it meant that they saw the tower as home.

Keep reading to see my short film about the rescue of the kestrel chicks to see them as they flying free in my garden.

Over the next few weeks, I left the door to the enclosure open so that they could come and go as they pleased. It was fun to watch them explore the garden. It was amazing to see how inquisitive they were and I filmed them as they took their first ever dips in the garden ponds. One day one of them knocked over a GoPro I was filming them on!

Then came the moment when two of the kestrel chicks came face to face with one of the stoats in the garden. I don’t know which species was more surprised, but I was glad the kestrels survived this first encounter. 

kestrel and stoat stand off

It was another two months before the kestrels eventually left the garden and set out to find territories of their own. I still miss the sound of them calling out to me whenever I step out of the back door but it is great to think that they made it despite their tragic start. 

Click on the video below to watch my film about their rescue and to see them fly free.

Kestrel Facts

Kestrel Egg Laying and Raising Chicks

A female normally lays a clutch of 3-6 eggs in late April or early May. The female lays the eggs at two-day intervals and usually starts to incubate as she lays the third egg. Incubation takes 27-29 days per egg, which hatch over a period of a few days. The chicks require constant brooding for the first 10-14 days, after which they are able to control their own body temperature. 

The male provides the female and the chicks with food throughout the nesting period. The female will only hunt if food is short, risking the loss of eggs or young chicks. Only as the young get bigger, can she safely start to hunt close to the nest.

The chicks fledge gradually when they are around four weeks old. They explore increasing distances from the nest but return to it to roost for another couple of weeks. Adults continue to feed the young for a month after fledging, during which time they will learn to catch their own food. 

Unusually for birds of prey, there is no aggression between the chicks, which tend to fly, perch and roost together even for some time after fledging. In the autumn, they go off in search of new territories.

Kestrel chicks cannot survive at such a young age without their mother since although the male does bring in food for his growing family, it is the female that tears this up into tiny morsels and feeds it to her the chicks.

Kestrels In My Garden

The History of the Kestrel Family in my Garden

Dramas from a live kestrel nest camera

If you’re new to their story, the male kestrel, Kes, has lived in my garden for 12 years. He has a colourful history: a few years ago I discovered on the cameras that he had two females on the go at once and even raised two sets of chicks. Last year he successfully raised two chicks with a new mate, after his long-term partner, Mrs Kes, died two years ago.

Click here to read their story during 2018’s breeding season.

Kestrel Artwork

My Kestrel Paintings

Inspired By Watching These Kestrels

My webcams help me to research these birds for my paintings. Here are a few of the paintings inspired by watching and learning about his bird pair up close.


kestrel painting
Kestrel Portrait, Original Painting
kestrel painting studies inside a nest cam
Kestrel Portrait, Original Painting


Kestrel | Art Print | Shop Now



Read More


Kestrel Nest Camera: The Back Story

Click here to read my Jan & Feb 2019 Update -Pairing Up 

Click to read how I set up the cameras to watch this kestrel family

Click here to read the full story of my kestrels and find out how I discovered Mr. Kes had a mistress and a second family.

Follow my other nest cameras:

Barn Owl Nest Camera 2019 | Tawny Owl Nest Camera 2019 | Peregrine Nest Camera


Read more about my adventures with kestrels here:

Click here to read about the time I watched Kestrels clash with Short Eared owls

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