Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Kestrels and lizards

I haven’t had any real kestrel adventures since January. O, I’ve seen them buzz by overhead here and there, most recently at 3rd and Atlantic when starlings chased one away, but no nests were found by this observer. Dozens of nests have been found in the city by others, however. The kestrel is our most common raptor. They love 19th century metal cornices for nesting, as do some of their usual prey, starlings. Some of their unusual prey turn out to be lizards. Ben Cacace, who has been observing a nesting pair of kestrels on the Upper East Side, has seen lizards being returned to the nest repeatedly this season. Last year, a Queens man reported lizards being eaten by kestrels. Deborah Allen has this great photo of the UES nest, in which you can see the lizard’s green back.

This is the Italian fence lizard, Podarcis sicula campestris, which you’d correctly guess was a non-native species. They were accidentally introduced to Long Island’s Garden City in 1967. With no native lizards to compete with, and lots of insects to eat, the fencer has spread through suburbia and into the bolder boroughs and quite possible into Manhattan (duh, via the 7 train!). Invasives are often bad news, but this one seems to have settled in nicely (at least so far).


nehoccramcire said...

I wonder if I'm the "man in Queens" you referred to. Last Spring, and this year too, we get this breeding pair of kestrels spending a lot of their time on the antenna of our roof, and they indeed frequently show up with lizards in their talons! It blew my mind last year to find that there are apparently lizards in abundance in the neighborhood (Sunnyside).

Matthew said...

You may be he. I took the reference from one of Bob deCandido's kestrel newsletter.