Data from bird surveys, nest box monitoring programs, and migration corridors indicate population declines for American Kestrels in North America. Rates of decline vary geographically but most are long-term (1966-2009) and persistent within the last decade. Causes of population declines are largely unknown and limited to speculation because of insufficient data and insufficient use of existing data, highlighting the need to generate data and models for informing conservation strategies.
With major support from the Intermountain Bird Observatory of BSU, Idaho Fish and Game, and a generous camera donation from Bosch, the KestrelCams provided high-quality live streaming of a kestrel family occupying a nest box on the World Center for Birds of Prey campus for a second year. The video was available at all times on the AKP website via Livestream. A listing of videos from captured footage is available on the KestrelCam page during the off-season.
Viewers were updated with mini-news posts on the website, and the webcams generated large amounts of discussion through various forms of social media, including the project’s Facebook page. Responses to the KestrelCam have been overwhelmingly positive, with many viewers reporting that they learned a lot about kestrel nesting and many more expressing interest in obtaining nest boxes of their own.
Thus, the KestrelCam streams have been deemed the strongest education tool for the AKP. There is no doubt that it carries the potential to increase citizen scientist participation across the Western Hemisphere. Some of the newly registered boxes indeed came from partners who originally viewed the KestrelCam stream and decided to register their own nest box. Viewers also had the ability to submit behavioral observations of their own, and those submissions are being reviewed to measure the accuracy of viewer-submitted behavioral data.
The AKP website received a major rehaul, which increased the functionality and stability of the site for registered users. The updated tools allow for more detailed and more accurate data entry, which will make data management and analyzation easier for both AKP biologists as well as AKP participants. With the new site live, registration is once again open to the public.
To date, more than 630 citizen scientists have been registered on the site, with more than 1,400 registered nest boxes. Expansion into Canada and South America was deemed to be a priority, as there is little data about kestrel populations and nesting success from those regions. The project also received a grant from the Michele and Agnese Cestone Foundation to expand the project into New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey – all of which are experiencing kestrel population declines.
The heartening success of the KestrelCams and the continued growth of citizen science participation have led to discussion of research questions that could be applied to the data the project is generating.