American Kestrel Partnership

Sponsored by:

The Peregrine Fund

Project Champion:

Geoff Pampush
gpampush@peregrinefund.org

What are the appropriate grade levels:

K through 12

Is there a limit to the number of participants:

None

Is there an opportunity for community service:

Yes

Estimated project cost:

00

Summary

The AKP is using the power of citizen science to solve the enigma of the American Kestrel’s ongoing population decline. The goal is to determine the cause before the kestrel becomes rare, by researching nesting and survival success. Citizen scientists help by contributing nestbox observations to us via our website.

You can learn more about this project by watching the live webcam HERE.

Description

Most residents of the Western Hemisphere have seen American Kestrels, even if we can’t pick one out in a birding book. In fact, kestrels have long been appreciated as North America’s most abundant bird of prey: they watch us from ledges as we stop into a city cafe, or from power lines as we stroll along country highways.

Unfortunately, this historically common little falcon has become a rare sight in many regions of North America, where populations have been declining for numerous decades. Reasons for population declines may include land use, climate change, depredation by Cooper’s Hawks and other birds of prey, competition with European Starlings for nesting cavities, and environmental contaminants such as rodenticides, heavy metals, and brominated flame retardants (used in electronics and textiles). However, researchers do not have sufficient data to understand why these long-term, wide-spread population declines are occurring. Counts like the Breeding Bird Survey indicate there are fewer breeding kestrels, but they cannot determine where the birds are having trouble in their life cycle. Are adults not returning after winter to breed? Are they dying at high rates during breeding, migration, or over-wintering? Are they not breeding as often or failing when they do try to breed? And, critically, how are these demographic processes influenced by land use, environmental contaminants, climate trends, and competing or predatory species?

These questions highlight the need for nestbox monitoring data, which offer demographic insights beyond head counts by giving us a glimpse into the kestrel life cycle. Although there are numerous successful nestbox programs across North America, they are largely localized and isolated from each other in a research context – making it difficult to draw reliable conclusions on a large scale. In response, the American Kestrel Partnership is coordinating an unprecedented, Western Hemispheric nestbox monitoring network and database by supporting existing nestbox programs and helping new programs fledge. Do you see kestrels where you live? Whether your local environment has growing, stable, or declining kestrel populations, we need your observations to advance kestrel demographics and conservation.

We are very interested in establishing a kestrel nest box “trail” in the Wood River Valley because in part, kestrels seem to be more common in southern Idaho than almost anywhere else in the US. By closely monitoring the nest boxes at least two times during the breeding season (during incubation and 4 weeks later during brood rearing), and uploading the data to our dedicated website, the students of the Wood River Valley can provide important data to the continental scale research project.

Project Images

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