American Kestrel Study

A citizen science effort to better understand the causes behind declines of American Kestrels.

Population data collected by HawkWatch International (HWI), and corroborated by other researchers, indicate long-term declines of American Kestrel populations in regions across the nation. The cause(s) have yet to be determined, but potential factors include land-use change, predation, contaminants, and loss of/competition for nesting cavities. Additional research is needed before conservation steps can be taken.

Nest Box and Banding Project

Each spring, HWI staff and volunteers monitor a growing network of Kestrel nest boxes located in various habitat types along the Wasatch Front, including wildland areas of intact native shoreline or shrub-steppe, agricultural areas, urbanizing areas transitioning from agriculture or wildland, and heavily developed areas. The data we collect from these monitoring efforts will give us a glimpse into landscape-specific reproduction and survival of the American Kestrel, which may help explain the reasons behind declines.

HWI biologists are also banding Kestrels with unique, alpha-numeric color bands. These bands make it easier to monitor survival and movements because they can be seen from afar with binoculars and spotting scopes, eliminating the need to recapture a bird to know 'who' it is. To maximize these efforts requires lots of eyes out there to spot and then report color-band sightings. We need your help. If you see a color-banded Kestrel, use the form below to report it. Please note the color of the band, the alpha-numeric code on the band, the date, and the location where you saw the bird (either GPS coordinates or nearest cross streets).

In addition to learning about Kestrel populations in Utah, HWI is a partner in the American Kestrel Partnership. The partnership is a network of independently managed nest box monitoring programs to generate data and model relationships between nesting performance and environmental factors across North America.

Genetics Mapping Project

In 2015, HawkWatch International, American Kestrel Partnership, Boise State University, and UCLA's Center for Tropical Research partnered on a new genetics project to essentially create a geographic map of where specific Kestrels populations breed, winter, and through which corridors they migrate. By using a SNP based method to study genetic material connected from feathers, we are able to examine populations of migratory birds at finer spatial scales than previously possible. This is cutting edge research that is very exciting and has great potential to help us figure out why Kestrels are declining by looking at the migration and wintering life cycle, in addition to breeding. For example, if we know Kestrel populations in the Northwest are significantly declining, we can use this genetics map to see where they migrate and winter, and conduct focused research in those areas and look for the cause.

Stay tuned for more information and updates on this new project!


Support this important research through a symbolic nest box "adoption" and take part in Kestrel conservation.  If you would like to purchase one of our nest boxs and/or have us install a box for you on your property, contact us for pricing.

Your gift of $25 will pay for the materials to build one nest box that will be used in our study.


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  ID Fact Sheet

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   Volunteer Form

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   Support Project

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  Report a Sighting              

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  Build a Nest Box                

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2016 Nest Box Project Results:

  • 300 nest boxes monitored

  • 99 nest boxes occupied by Kestrel pairs

  • 297 offspring produced from active nest boxes            

  • 366 Kestrels banded

  • 37 citizen science volunteers contributing time

  • 1,300 total volunteer hours contributed

2015 Nest Box Project Results:

  • 204 nest boxes monitored

  • 66 nest boxes occupied by Kestrel pairs         

  • 33 citizen science volunteers contributing time

2014 Next Box Project Results:

  • 142 nest boxes monitored

  • 34 nest boxes occupied by Kestrel pairs

  • 109 offspring produced from active nest boxes

  • 124 Kestrels banded

  • 30 citizen science volunteers contributing time

  • 1,180 total volunteer hours contributed