American Kestrels Researched Locally

A free and feathered service is facing trouble and some local scientists are trying to figure out how to save it.

It's prime time for researchers from Hawk Mountain.

>> FARMER: The American kestrel is really of continental concern right now, said Dr. Chris Farmer, senior research biologist. We're seeing population declines throughout North America. Nobody knows for certain why.

Local researchers have been keeping an eye on kestrels since the 1960s.

We're one of the first locations where this sort of research was undertaken, said Farmer.

Over the past couple years, Dr. Chris Farmer has been conducting more detailed research.

They're wired, said Farmer.

Sensors inside a box take a temperature reading every four minutes and cameras capture motion.

Hopefully, said Farmer, we'll see who's bringing food and what the food item is.

This day, the remains of a crayfish caught the team by surprise.

I never found a crayfish claw in a kestrel box before, said Farmer. Apparently they're having a little seafood today.

Outside the box, the team tags the baby kestrels and draws blood for testing.

All of this feeds back into the reproductive success of the birds, said Farmer, which will determine changes in population size.

Kestrels actually play a role in Berks County's #1 industry. Their diet consists of both insects and rodents, so they offer free pest control on local farms.

It's the kind of bird that's not only key to the ecosystem, said Farmer, but is also fairly beneficial for humans to have around.

Farmer and his team are keeping tabs on about 150 strategically-placed nesting boxes around northern Berks County.

They said it will take another year or two before they have sufficient data to draw a conclusion on their research.

Meanwhile, the birds will go from fledgling to full grown in just a few days and scientists will get ready to start the testing process all over again.

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Allentown, PA 18102


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