Kestrel Nestbox Project
The central Oregon Kestrel box trail is one of the largest and most successful on the North American continent. Its size has increased steadily since one box fledged five young kestrels in 1998. In the interim through 2014, a cumulative total of 2300 young falcons have fledged from the boxes; since 2005 the average total has been between 151 and 196.
However, the program accomplishes more than just raptor conservation, as it also fulfills the objectives of research and education. To achieve the former, comprehensive nesting data is gathered by multiple nestbox visits during the breeding season and reported to the American Kestrel Partnership and The Peregrine Fund. In addition, the nestlings are banded by a licensed bander. Banding also performs an educational role by providing an excellent opportunity for a hands-on experience for adults and youth groups, as well as box-hosting landowners.
2015 update from Don McCartney, Project Leader:
I have been waiting for over a decade to have ideal weather conditions for a Kestrel nesting season. In 2015 we got that, with warm weather, except for a few days in early June, making more prey available. And the Kestrels responded by fledging 236young falcons! The nestlings were very healthy with almost no under-wing parasites. Nestling mortality was extremely low.
This is the first time in 16 years that I have measured their nesting success in terms of fledglings, rather than active boxes. In prior years, when nestling mortality was much greater, I felt that I couldn't rely on the chicks surviving the interval from the last nest box visit to the point of fledging.
This is the third year that we have participated in sending all of our nesting data to the Peregrine Fund for the Kestrel research project known as the American Kestrel Partnership. What is the Peregrine Fund? It was founded 45 years ago with the mission of conserving birds of prey. They have projects for conserving 34 species of birds of prey in 27 countries worldwide. In April of this year I wrote to you that our Kestrel project might just be making a difference. Chris McClure, PhD., director of the American Kestrel Partnership, stated that for Kestrels the trend is positive for the Deschutes and Madras BBS counts, while these two routes are much different than the trend across all of Oregon which is significantly negative.
I have been blessed with a terrific group of a dozen volunteers. You can be proud of our accomplishments as you have been an integral part of the success of the Kestrel project. Occasionally one of you will ask about the number of Kestrels that have been fledged from our boxes over the life of the project. That number is now conservatively estimated to stand at 2,625.
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