AKP Quarterly: Summer 2017
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American Kestrel Partnership Quarterly: Summer 2017

Citizen Scientists: Last call for 2017 Data and Feathers

As the breeding season has come to an end, this is a reminder to partners with boxes to enter you data! Make sure YOUR KESTRELS ARE COUNTED as we will soon begin looking at the numbers to see what the data tell us about American Kestrels across the range! Log-in to enter data:

Genetic analyses of the 2017 breeding feather samples will begin in a few weeks, and we are excited to see the results of all your hard work! A reminder to please send your 2017 breeding samples **No later than September 11, 2017**

For the Full Cycle Phenology Project, we may be collecting samples during the 2018 breeding season as well. If you monitor kestrels but don't have the proper federal and state permits to collect samples, we encourage you to contact someone locally to see if they would be interested in helping contribute samples from your area. The biology department at your local university, your local Audubon, or Master Naturalists chapters are great places to start! Begin your search early to coordinate efforts and because permitting can take some time!

Breaking Research

Our KestrelCam is making waves! A paper just published in Avian Conservation & Ecology used evidence from the KestrelCam and from Boise State University's long-term nest box program to show that American Kestrels use nest boxes as roosting sites during cold winter nights. Authors also found evidence for inter-specific (example: flicker vs. kestrel, shown below) and intra-specific (example: between male and female kestrel) competition for use of the boxes during winter. This study highlights that these boxes are important to American Kestrels throughout the year and not just during the breeding season!

Great job to authors Caitlin Davis, Dr. Julie Heath, and Dr. Chris McClure! THANKS to Adopt-A-Box sponsors. Your donations support this research. Special thanks to to Ms. Judith King, Lynn and Jack Loacker for helping to fund this research.

Paper Available for Free, here
See More of the Study's Videos, here

Adopt-A-Box to Support Future Research

American Kestrels In Decline

We just got an update from David Mossop of the Yukon Research Institute and Yukon College. His program has monitored kestrel nest boxes since 1985 in the Yukon Territory, Canada. The figure below shows the percentage of boxes used by breeding kestrels. You can see there has been a dramatic decline in box use since the 1980s. "Kestrel numbers dropped again to only 4 breeding pairs (zero in 2007, one pair in 2013 and 6 pairs last year). This occupancy hovers at about a 90% decline from the early 1990’s," Mossop said.  


While alarming, Mossop's findings are not particularly surprising. Across North America, American Kestrel populations are dropping and have been since the 1960's (see figure below and explore more, here). The American Kestrel Partnership is working with professional and citizen scientists to understand why our favorite backyard falcon is declining. As of now, scientists don't have strong evidence to explain this mystery. Our partners, like Mossop and Epple (featured below), install next boxes and monitor them throughout the breeding season.

Mossop's data illustrate the usefulness of monitoring and reporting data for all boxes in a program, even the unoccupied nest boxes! In Mossop's figure above, you see that fewer and fewer nest boxes are used as time goes on. That's why it is so important to report both occupied and unoccupied boxes. So, if you monitor a nest box or are interested in starting to monitor a box, we encourage you to follow our monitoring and data collection protocols, found here (and at the button, below). 

Monitoring Instructions & Data Sheet

AKP In the News!

Connecting the dots: The October 2017 issue of BirdWatching Magazine features a story on the half-century decline of American Kestrels written by one of our partners, Ron Zigler. He attended the Kestrel Symposium co-hosted by Brandywine Zoo and the American Kestrel Partnership back in January. His story reports on what he learned about scientists' recommendations on understanding the decline. Available now at Barnes & Noble and other newsstands, as well as on digital platforms such as iTunes, Kindle, and Google Play.

Dr. Sarah Schulwitz, Director of the American Kestrel Partnership, was featured on the radio show, "Talkin' Birds with Ray Brown" last Sunday, August 27! They discussed the American Kestrel Genoscape Project, if kestrels could benefit farms, and how to participate with the American Kestrel Partnership. Listen here!

Partner Spotlight: Sacajawea Audubon Society

Paulette Epple is the Conservation Co-chair and Kestrel Nest Box Project Director for the Sacajawea Audubon Society. The chapter joined the American Kestrel Partnership in 2012 and now monitors ~70 nest boxes in Bozeman, MT. 

Hi Everyone,

This is Paulette Epple of the Sacajawea Audubon Society reporting in from Bozeman, Montana. Our project continues to grow in success each year. This year we have monitored 16 active kestrel nests (up from 9 last year). Our occupancy rate is still quite low since we have over 70 boxes installed, so we are challenging ourselves to move some of the poorly sited boxes to better habitats each year. Our kestrels gave us an amazingly long nesting season this year. The earliest eggs were laid in the last days of April, the majority of eggs were laid in May, and we had two very late boxes surprise us with late June nest commencements. The birds in those boxes had to endure more of our hotter than average temps in the 90's this summer.  The last nest of 5 young finally fledged about the 20th of August--just barely enough time for the juveniles to learn hunting skills and be ready to migrate on time.

We are thrilled to have banded 6 adults and 60 nestlings this season and we collected feather samples from 14 nests to contribute to the Kestrel Genoscape Project.  We found several of our nests had been built on partial starling nests that had been initiated in the boxes.  It seems that there are many instances of kestrels outcompeting starlings in our area.

Its great to be a partner of the American Kestrel Partnership and hear the inspirational stories from the many programs around the country.  

Paulette Epple, Sacajawea Audubon Society

Join the Discussion!
And last but certainly not least: Thank you to everyone who took the survey we sent out in May! We had 545 people complete the survey. You have given us lots of good information to go on as we strive to improve our education, outreach, and research program. 

Many thanks for your partnership and keep kestreling! 

With best wishes,
Sarah Schulwitz
Director of the American Kestrel Partnership
Copyright © 2017 The Peregrine Fund, All rights reserved.

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