Colorado Brewery Eagerly Awaits Falcon Hatchlings

Colorado Brewery Eagerly Awaits Falcon Hatchlings

Colorado’s Horse & Dragon Brewing has gone to the birds (of prey).

“Love them! I am slightly obsessed! I check them every time I wake up at night. My husband grumbles, “Yep, she’s still sitting there.’”

That’s Carol Cochran of the Fort Collins, Colorado, craft brewery. The “she” Carol is referring to is “Millennium,” an American kestrel – a species of falcon — that has taken up residence in the nesting box which the brewery installed late last year. You can watch it live here.

“I started calling the mother Millennium because I’m a huge Star Wars fan, and she’s a falcon — North America’s smallest raptor,” Carol adds.

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Springtime represents the return of brewery patio season here in the West, but the warmer weather is a cue for wildlife that share the region to start looking for food and places to nest too. It is not unheard of for wildlife to find their way around – and sometimes into — a brewery. I once greeted a brewery owner who asked if I minded following him out to where they stored bags of grain to investigate “a really big snake” that members of a tour had reported. In California, nesting birds have made a habit of finding their way into Agoura Hills’ Ladyface Alehouse, often selecting a nesting site that the brewers would have preferred they not — constructing a nest on top of sixtels has happened more than once.

Horse & Dragon Installs Nesting Box

American Kestrel: Falco sparverius Credit: eBird.org

Luckily, Millennium’s nest is far from disruption and keg sales. The box was provided by the Colorado Avian Research and Rehabilitation Institute (CARRI). CARRI is headed by Scott Rashid, whose organization’s missions include research and rehabilitation for area raptors.

Rashid learned about Horse & Dragon by way of an online dating misconnection. Carol tells it: “Scott was introduced to me by a friend who had a Match.com or Tinder date at one of the chick bandings a couple of years ago and met Scott and was introduced to CARRI. She didn’t continue dating the guy who took her to the banding, but she was interested in the work of CARRI and thought our location might work.”

Horse & Dragon is set up in an old airplane hangar facing an overgrown landing strip “which now provide okay hunting ground, apparently, for kestrels,” Carol says.

Kestrel hatchling. Credit: Scott Rashid/ CARRI

“The American Kestrel is North American’s smallest falcon. These diminutive raptors have been declining for the past several years, due to loss of habitat, predation and habitat loss,” says Rashid, “These tiny falcons are a secondary cavity nesting species, which means they need a cavity to nest in, but cannot make it themselves, and therefore rely upon manmade structures such as nest boxes to raise their families.”

Rashid dropped off a box CARRI had made with instructions on how high to hang it and Cochran mounted it to the back wall of the brewery last October.

“We had our electrician come out and run wiring to be able to rig up the nest camera…and ran a Wi-Fi booster back there so that folks can follow along online from anywhere they like” said Cochran. “During the winter a North American flicker spent every night in the box. But in April, a kestrel pair seemed to have asked her to move along, and they took it over.”

Rashid says that Kestrel habitat is any open spaces.  “Members of the CARRI have been building and placing nest boxes for these species for years with a goal of having 200 nest boxes placed from Arvada north to the Wyoming border,” says Rashid, “We have about 60 placed now.”

If your home or brewery is near an open space that might work, reach out to CARRI for consideration.

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‘Kestrel Run’ Beer in Honor of the Falcons

horse and dragon falcon beer
Horse & Dragon’s Kestrel Run beer release is June 2, 2019.

Since early May, Millennium and her partner have watched over five brown and speckled kestrel eggs. Once they hatch, any day now, the chicks will be banded for tracking and research purposes. On Sunday, June 2, the brewery will be having a special release party in honor of the family. Kestrel Run is an American Hoppy Wheat beer (not to mention another Star Wars nod: Han Solo ran the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs!) that will be tapped at noon at the brewery.

Horse & Dragon reached out to the Glendale Raptors, Denver’s Major League Rugby team, for help naming the chicks. The hope is that The Glendale Raptors might run a contest to help the brewery name the birds.

Which is all fine and well, I guess. Might be worth noting, though, that the American kestrel was commonly referred to as the “sparrow hawk” up until the 1960s. As a beer writer with the last name of Sparhawk, I’d point out that Andy is cool name for undersized, yet particularly stylish, birds of prey, too …

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