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How you can help the shrinking population of Kestrel Falcons in Utah

Posted at 6:43 AM, Jun 26, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — The population of the smallest falcon in North America is becoming even smaller but there's a way Utahns can help for free.

For a decade, a team of researchers from Hawkwatch International has been studying hundreds of Kestrel Falcons in Utah’s urban environments to find how why their numbers are declining.

Jessica Taylor, a Research Associate at Hawkwatch International took FOX 13 News out to show how babies are banded.

"We usually band about maybe 500 each season," she explained. "So about maybe 100 to 200 adults depending on the year and then maybe 400 nestlings."

The team banded birds that were close to the Jordan River in the middle of West Valley City.

Kestrel parents weren't too happy with the disruption to their fledglings but the goal is to complete the process safely, quietly and quickly.

Researchers are trying to figure out why there are fewer falcons, which is why banding and tracking are essential.

"It could be a lot of things, nesting habitat, or available cavities," Taylor said. "It could be predation, on those nest adult survival, things like, you know, pesticides, or rodenticides in the environment. So a lot of researchers are looking into that right now...hopefully, we'll come up with an answer."

The work is founded on the idea that the raptors are an indicator of overall ecosystem health.

"We started this project where we're looking at the survival and health of American kestrels along the Wasatch Front so that we can learn more and hopefully intervene before the species face even more dire consequences," explained Kirsten Elliot, Director of Development and Communications at Hawkwatch International.

Each baby Kestrel gets an overall health check and identification bands, to help researchers understand where these birds travel and how long they survive.

That’s where you can help. Hawkwatch is asking people in the community to observe and report the falcon’s behavior.

"You can look at these unique color bands that are on their legs. So put your binoculars, your camera, or just your naked eye up to the sky and see if you see those bands. And if you do, you can report them to us. And that helps us understand a little bit more about if they're surviving and where they're living."

If you spot and want to report Kestrel behavior click here.