Build a nestbox, help a kestrel.

The American kestrel nesting season is in full swing!

kestrel scistarter citizen science

Found throughout the Americas, the American kestrel (Falco sparverius) is the smallest of the North American falcons. Unfortunately, its population is in decline particularly along the Pacific Coast and in New England. Much of the decline is due to land clearing which reduces the kestrel’s natural nesting habitats.

To combat this decline, the American Kestrel Partnership, a project of The Peregrine Fund, is asking citizens to set up nestboxes for breeding kestrels. Through the project’s website, volunteers can purchase pre-made nestboxes or download instructions for making the boxes themselves.

As of the end of April, over 1200 nestboxes were registered. Although it can take a couple years before kestrels will use the boxes, occupation rates are promising. Currently the project boasts a 37% occupation rate. The curious can watch a live video feed of kestrels nesting, a rare glimpse of kestrel behavior.

On average the females will lay about 4-5 eggs per brood. It will take about a month for the eggs to hatch and another month before the chicks fledge. These young adults will have the summer to hone their hunting skills before winter sets in.

In addition to setting up nestboxes, volunteers are asked to submit records of successful nesting or lack of kestrel activity in their boxes. This information will help researchers understand how land management may affect kestrel populations. For example do kestrels prefer to nest in quieter, rural environments or in areas with higher prey density? What is the effect of insecticides on chick survival? Ultimately, this information will be used to help restore kestrel populations.

So go ahead! Build or buy a nestbox and help some kestrels!  If you happen to be in Massachusetts be sure to check out a similar project with  the Massachusetts Audubon.

Categories: Birds

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About the Author

Carolyn Graybeal

Carolyn Graybeal

Dr. Carolyn Graybeal holds a PhD in neuroscience from Brown University. She is a former National Academies of Science Christine Mirzayan Science & Technology Policy Fellow during which time she worked with the Marian Koshland Science Museum. In addition the intricacies of the human brain, she is interested in the influence of education and mass media in society's understanding of science.