Mystery of Vanishing Kestrels: What’s Happening to This Flashy Falcon?

"The number of American kestrels has dropped sharply. That goes against the trend for birds of prey, broadly seen as a conservation bright spot."

"At first, people thought it might be a housing shortage.

Scientists had noticed worrisome declines in the American kestrel, a small, flashy falcon found coast to coast. The downturn was especially puzzling because birds of prey in North America are largely considered a conservation bright spot. Take bald eagles, whose population in the contiguous United States has quadrupled since 2009. Or red-tailed hawks, which sometimes nest in city buildings, dining on mice and rats. Turkey vultures are on the increase, too.

“Why are all these other raptors doing great when the American kestrel is on the decline?” said Chris McClure, who directs global conservation science at the Peregrine Fund, a conservation group.

Maybe the problem was a lack of nesting spots, some researchers thought, as intensive agriculture and ever more housing developments meant fewer dead trees in the open landscapes that kestrels need. Scientists and members of the public set out nest boxes, and kestrels moved in."

Catrin Einhorn reports with photographs by Bryan Anselm for the New York Times June 5, 2023.


Source: NYTimes, 06/06/2023