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Eagle Scout candidate shows love for kestrels

News Release

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Media contact: Karen Parker, 386-758-0525

Southeastern kestrels were the big winners in a partnership between Boy Scout Troop 600 from Perry, Tri-County Electric Cooperative out of Madison, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

Ten new nest boxes now rise high above the sandhills and scrub on the Tide Swamp Wildlife Management Area in Taylor County.

Construction and installation of the nest boxes is the Eagle Scout project of Thomas Palaio, Troop 600 guide. Tri-County Electric donated and installed the 10 poles on which the boxes were mounted.

The southeastern kestrel, a small falcon, is the only kestrel found in the Americas and is the most common falcon in North America. About the size of a large thrush, the bird is also the smallest falcon in North America. It is commonly used in falconry.

According to Randy Havens, a biologist at the FWC's Big Bend Field Office in Perry, there is no documented evidence of nesting of the southeastern sub-species of kestrels on the WMA.

"We often see migratory kestrels perched on power lines and trees along the highways when they spend the winter here, but no one has been able to document nesting activity," Havens said. "We want to see if we have any kestrels that stay here all year."

Havens explained that the boxes were installed too late for this year's nesting season.

"We will be monitoring the nest boxes next year, however, to see if we have any activity. Some other species could always take advantage of the boxes, but we're really hoping that the kestrels start nesting here."

The installation of the nest boxes also included a strip of aluminum flashing that will serve as a guard for the nest to prevent snakes, raccoons and other predators from climbing the nest pole.

"Some predators that go after the eggs or chicks may be able to climb the power poles," Havens said. "But the flashing around the poles is slippery and will provide a barrier that the predators can't cross.

Palaio, 17, decided to do his Eagle Scout project after talking to Havens.

"Mr. Havens said this was a good project and could provide important data for the FWC next year to learn whether the kestrels nest here," Palaio said. "I liked the idea, so I decided to take it on as my project."

The FWC provided the plans, tools and materials for Palaio's troop, which built the kestrel boxes.  Palaio, his father Jack Palaio, and James Clover, 15, current senior patrol leader for the troop, joined Havens March 26 to install the boxes.

In addition to building the kestrel nest boxes, Palaio's troop also modified five wood duck boxes, attaching them to poles to be erected on various areas across the Big Bend WMA in the future.

Among the requirements to attain the rank of Eagle Scout, Palaio must plan, develop and give leadership to others in a community service project that is a minimum of 100 hours. 

FWC Facts:
The Florida black bear is one of three subspecies of bears recognized in the southeastern United States.

Learn More at AskFWC