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Coyotes-Wolves-Cougars.blogspot.com

Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

"Coyotes now live across North America, from Alaska to Panama, California to Maine"................. "But where they came from, and when, has been debated for decades"............ "Using museum specimens and fossil records, researchers from the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and North Carolina State University have produced a comprehensive (and unprecedented) range history(maps below) of the expanding species that can help reveal the ecology of predation as well as evolution through hybridization"................"Coyotes historically had a wide distribution, primarily in the western half of the continent” prior to European contact, with unknown range limits but extending at least as far east as southern Wisconsin, northwestern Indiana, western Arkansas, and central Texas"

https://www.google.com/url?rct=j&sa=t&url=https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/05/180522114626.htm&ct=ga&cd=CAEYACoUMTQzOTAwMzIxNjUwMTA4MzMzNTEyGjI5OGRhMGI0Mzc5N2FiZmI6Y29tOmVuOlVT&usg=AFQjCNH0qP1lgU3rp7trN9CxGW1bUBfTBg


  1. CLICK ON THIS doi link to read full research article
  2.  DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.759.15149

How coyotes conquered the continent

Date:
May 22, 2018
Source:
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences


southern California Coyote reacting to a wildlife
camera on tree



The geographic distribution of coyotes has dramatically expanded since 1900, spreading across much of North America in a period when most other mammal species have been declining. Although this unprecedented expansion has been well documented at the state/provincial scale, the continent-wide picture of coyote spread was coarse and largely anecdotal. A more thorough compilation of available records was needed. "We began by mapping the original range of coyotes using archeological and fossil records," says co-author Dr. Roland Kays, Head of the Museum's Biodiversity Lab and Research Associate Professor in NC State's Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources. "We then plotted their range expansion across North America from 1900 to 2016 using museum specimens, peer-reviewed reports, and game department records." In all, Kays and lead author James Hody reviewed more than 12,500 records covering the past 10,000 years for this study.
Their findings indicate that coyotes historically occupied a larger area of North America than generally suggested in the literature. Previous maps, as it turns out, had ancient coyotes only located across the central deserts and grasslands. However, fossils from across the arid west link the distribution of coyotes from 10,000 years ago to specimens collected in the late 1800s, proving that their geographic range was not only broader but had been established for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years, which also contradicts some widely-cited descriptions of their historical distribution.
It wasn't until approximately 1920 that coyotes began their expansion across North America. This was likely aided by an expansion of human agriculture, forest fragmentation, and hybridization with other species. Eastern expansion in particular was aided by hybridization with wolves and dogs, resulting in size and color variation among eastern coyotes.
Before too long, coyotes may no longer be just a North American species. Kays notes that coyotes are continually expanding their range in Central America, crossing the Panama Canal in 2010. Active camera traps are now spotting coyotes approaching the Darien Gap, a heavily forested region separating North and South America, suggesting that they are at the doorstep of South America.
"The expansion of coyotes across the American continent offers an incredible experiment for assessing ecological questions about their roles as predators, and evolutionary questions related to their hybridization with dogs and wolves," adds Hody. "By collecting and mapping these museum data we were able to correct old misconceptions of their original range, and more precisely map and date their recent expansions.
"We hope these maps will provide useful context for future research into the ecology and evolution of this incredibly adaptive carnivore."






Coyote Range as of the year 1900
Ranges are based on occurrence of museum specimens, peer-reviewed literature with associated specimens or photographs, and reports from state game departments. The distribution of coyotes between the Yucatán Peninsula and Nicaragua is coarsely depicted due to the paucity of available data, representing the earliest confirmed occurrence.
Credit: James Hody

Comparison of Holocene coyote range maps, pre-expansion. Fossil and zooarchaeological remains suggest that coyotes were distributed throughout western North America prior to European colonization, contrary to widely-cited accounts (e.g., Parker 1995).











Historical distribution of coyotes from 10,000 years before present (BP) to 1899. Zooarchaeological (FAUNMAP) records document the distribution of coyotes during the Holocene (0–10,000 BP).












Coyote range expansion by decade, 1900–2016. Ranges are based on occurrence of museum specimens, peer-reviewed literature with associated specimens or photographs, and reports from state wildlife management agencies. The distribution of coyotes between the Yucatán Peninsula and Nicaragua is coarsely depicted due to the paucity of available data, representing the earliest confirmed occurrence. All referenced materials are listed in Suppl. material 












Story Source:
Materials provided by North Carolina Museum of Natural SciencesNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:
  1. James W. Hody, Roland Kays. Mapping the expansion of coyotes (Canis latrans) across North and Central AmericaZooKeys, 2018; 759: 81

  2. CLICK ON THIS doi link to read full research article
  3.  DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.759.15149

Sunday, May 20, 2018

"Six million square kilometres — 32.8 per cent — of protected land around the globe is under intense human pressure from threats including more roads, cities, farms and railways".............Canada is doing a far better job of protecting its open space and the Province of Alberta just protected another 13,600 square kilometers adjacent to Woods Buffalo Provincial Park........."With this purchase of land, Alberta is now home to the largest area of protected boreal forest in the world"................The trick now will be for Alberta to minimize the industrial pressures(dams/mining/forestry/tar sands) adjacent to its open space so as to optimize biological diversity

http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/protected-areas-human-stress-1.4667734

Study suggests one-third of protected wildlife areas under intense human stress

Canada's protected areas in 'much better condition,' B.C. researcher says

Thomson Reuters · 

Friday, May 18, 2018

"After 60 years, Isle Royale(Michigan) continues to be the site of the world's longest predator-prey study"..............."With only two wolves remaining alive, The Royale research team estimates the moose population to be around 1,475 members"..........."Historically, prior to the crash of the Wolf population, Moose numbered between 700 and 1,200 animals"............. "The National Park Service has proposed introducing 20-30 wolves to the island over the next three years so as to optimize both plant and animal biodiversity there"............"The final environmental impact statement was completed and the identified preferred alternative is to restore wolf predation, but the final decision on the plan is pending as of the Winter Study report publication"

From: Leah Vucetich ;lmvuceti@mtu.edu
Date: May 17, 2018 at 6:08:32 AM EDT
To: ", isleroyalewolfmoose-;isleroyalewolfmoose-l@mtu.edu
Subject: [isleroyalewolfmoose-l] 2017-2018 Ecological Study of Wolves on Isle Royale

Hello, Friends.

The 2017-2018 Ecological Study of Wolves on Isle Royale is now available for download here.

Thank you for your continued interest and support!

Rolf &John

At the moment, the last two Wolves left on Royale


17-May-2018

After 60 years, Isle Royale continues world's longest predator-prey study

Researchers from Michigan Technological University have released the annual Winter Study report detailing updates on the ecology of Isle Royale National Park. For the third year in a row, the Isle Royale wolf population remains a mere two, while the moose population continues to stay above the historic average. Without the pressure of predation, the expanding moose population will have a greater impact on the island's forest ecology.
The study co-authors include Research Professor Rolf Peterson, Professor John Vucetich and Assistant Research Professor Sarah Hoy. They say the heart of the study's success has been the more than 1,000 citizen science volunteers who have bolstered the study's fieldwork efforts in small teams totaling about 40 people each year for the last 30 years. Together, they helped gather enough skulls to document the shrinking moose of Isle Royale, observe seasonal wolf activity and earned more than their fair share of hiking boot blisters.

In terms of population trends, little changed on the island this past year. As Peterson, Vucetich and Hoy write in the report about the last male-female pair of wolves, "there was no evidence of any change in their status, except they are older by a year."













The pair are closely related--both as siblings and as father-daughter--and the inbreeding within the island's isolated wolf population is what contributed to their demise. The wolves' numbers started plummeting in 2009, declining by 88 percent from 24 to 2 wolves for that period; historical levels of wolves typically varied between 18 and 27. The pair, aged eight and ten years old, may have produced a pup several years ago but the female has continued to reject the male as a mate.

One meager hope for new wolves formed briefly in early February. For almost a week, an ice bridge connected the island to the Ontario mainland. However, the ice conditions were rough, the bridge did not last long, and the researchers found no evidence of wolves crossing over. With fewer ice bridges and warmer winters, the chances of wolves recovering naturally is slim to none.










As the wolf population declined and forage remained abundant, the moose population has been able to expand. Counting conditions for the past two winters have not been ideal, but the team estimates the moose population to be around 1,475 members. The population usually numbers between 700 and 1,200 moose. Hoy, who led the skull size study of the island's moose that found their size decreased by 16 percent over 40 years, says we are observing a population in transition.

"Although the effects on body size are quite subtle, there was a marked decline in lifespan over the study period," she says, explaining that wolves are not the only factor affecting moose. The changes in both populations impact the rest of the island, particularly balsam fir, which is a staple winter food for moose. "Maybe the trees can withstand one major source of stress, but with the lack of predation and a changing climate, can it withstand two or more?"










Peterson, who has been a part of the Isle Royale research for the past 50 years, says the island is a unique place to study moose and wolves. Unlike big, complex spaces like Yellowstone, where the cascading effects of wolf populations are still debated among scientists, Isle Royale is a neatly contained ecosystem that can provide insight into other Northwoods settings.

"This is the perfect environment to observe predator-prey interactions--but doesn't make it easy," he says. "We anticipate big things are about to happen, with wolf predation restored, that will once again change the direction of the island's ecosystem. It might take a long time to see the full impact of those changes."

The National Park Service has proposed introducing 20-30 wolves to the island over the next three years. The final environmental impact statement was completed and the identified preferred alternative is to restore wolf predation, but the final decision on the plan is pending as of the Winter Study report publication.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

"Cutting down trees to help birds sounds heretical"................"And the science clearly shows that intact forests are critical for interior-nesting species like Worm-eat­ing and Cerulean Warblers, and Scarlet Tanagers"............"Ample research has docu­mented the hazards to these birds when the woods become fragmented, such as more pressure from so-called edge predators like raccoons and opossums"............."But early successional forests—those dense, tangled thickets of young sap­lings, fruit-bearing shrubs, and vines—represent some of the most-needed bird habitat today, and they are largely miss­ing from many landscapes"................"In presettle­ment times, young forests were spawned by natural sources of disturbance like windstorms, hurricanes, and fire that leveled standing trees and reset the suc­cessional clock".............."Then from the late 19th through the mid-20th centuries, after the waves of European settlement, land­scapes in the East and Midwest were full of old, abandoned farm fields and regen­erating clearcuts that provided millions of acres of early successional habitat for Chestnut-sided Warblers and box tur­tles, Field Sparrows and hognose snakes"..............."The Karner blue butterfly is just one of many shrubland butterflies that depend on early successional habitat".............."Today, the natural forces of fire and wind have been dampened by human intervention and the fragmented na­ture of the landscape, with a lot of land permanently cleared for farming and development"................"Much of the forest that remains is middle-aged with striking uniformity, and little of the structural complexity from layered understories, snags, and downed logs that promotes biodiversity"............"True “old-growth” forest that survived the 19th century logging boom accounts for a fraction of one per­cent of the landscape in the East"............"Crucial as young forests may be, though, biologists say they are only part of the equation"............."The best bird habitats contain a mix of forests both young and old".............."Variety—in this case, habitat vari­ety—is the spice of life for birds(and all wildife)"................ “If you don’t have a diversity of all forest age classes and structural con­ditions, whether for a Golden-winged Warbler, a Cerulean Warbler, Wood Thrush, you name it, you’re going to have less than optimal conditions for any of those species,” said Dr. Jeff Lar­kin, a wildlife ecologist at Indiana Uni­versity of Pennsylvania who has worked on forest management strategies for all three of those birds"............. “It’s the land­scape they evolved with, long before we mucked things up"

CLICK LINK TO READ FULL ARTICLE
https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=http-3A__r20.rs6.net_tn.jsp-3Ff-3D001oADDpUHcZFDuQFdb0m9mmE7WdZUjWBszErLx5WxT7ABu3inOmhqv9uEH8UN0fdpbZhjgMgFJkNE-5Fe-5F0BqzUez3vHAhY7m21FdTnGiTevn3TBk4e-2D4eFrv50D1gLeizH637CrBwVvuQ90Ub5w9mP2Tu-2DuD0FrHb4-5FMzKOSMcIea3X-2DorfUDEai6MeMp94OkGG5q96tq8ZG-2DRFCA8jvpcefPq-2DUPuppYvha1-5FKKlrQjByOt-5FvzyrvqKHjb1HFuetr6PG8iqTGXSS8-3D-26c-3D86QZ-2DCaw6iI8cpGEAYFg9ExM2OitiKo9KgBt8yM1dFAhIlYmB5-2DMQA-3D-3D-26ch-3DM94N88oIezjqd2gTa6-2D3VnLCPDXUYat76E0r3-5F17KubU2sz6R3pV4A-3D-3D&d=DwMFaQ&c=-SicqtCl7ffNuxX6bdsSog&r=-DxtnAHbuRRkyWQnoegVz79cCKJiYDnPm_QtmQKN7-I&m=oi6kWsq7VQ9z0QeHz7zrzBKCGRFtzylNJkVQXPJr6QA&s=jNAWGbWADr4vHtrVemeRymLP7zvro59VcZF4XEhmjEc&e=


Old-Growth Is Great, 

But Here’s Why We Need 

New-Growth Forests, Too

By Scott Weidensaul
8
March 28, 201
Landscapes with a mosaic of young and mature forest offer habitat for different birds at different stages. For example, Golden-winged Warblers nest in young forest but move their fledglings to older forest to feed on insects before their first migration. Meanwhile, Wood Thrushes nest in mature forest and move their fledglings to younger forest to feast on berries and fruits. Graphic by Bartels Science Illustrator Phillip Krzeminski.






.

Wood Thrushes (left) and Chestnut-sided Warblers (right) are suffering steep population declines. Though the thrush nests in mature forest, and the warbler in early successional habitat,  both use the same mosaic of habitat throughout the breeding season and need a mix of young and old to successfully raise their young and prepare them for their first migration. Wood Thrush by Bill Canosa; Chestnut-sided Warbler by Ray Hennessy.





Tangles of young shrubs interspersed with older trees create good habitat for the Golden-winged Warbler. Photo by Justin Fritscher/Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Clumps of trees among early successional forests provide optimal habitat for the golden-winged warbler. Credit: Justin Fritscher, NRCS.
Large patches of high density shrubs and young trees connected to other patches of suitable habitat create an ideal home for many species of wildlife. Photo courtesy of USFWS.






The Great Thicket National Wildlife Refuge could eventually encompass 15,000 acres in parcels covering 6 states from New York to Maine. Yellow shading indicates focus areas identified in a 2016 environmental assessment by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife ServiceTap or click for larger image.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The American Kestrel, North America's smallest and most common bird-of-prey is proving to be an ally to fruit-growing farmers in Michigan and our Western States............"In 2011, a research team led by Michigan State University (MSU) integrative biologist Catherine Lindell received a four-year, approximately $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Specialty Crops Research Initiative (SCRI) to investigate the impact of and possible solutions to crop damage by bird pests"............ "Word reached the team that blueberry growers in the western United States had set up nest boxes for the American kestrel to attract them to their lands and take advantage of the birds’ natural proclivity for hunting the insects, rodents and small birds that come to eat their crops"..............."In surveys of identical sweet cherry plots, the Michigan Researchers recorded an average of 3.7 pest birds when no Kestrel nest boxes were present; in those with nest boxes, that number plummeted to only 0.69"............."Though sweet cherries are much more susceptible to pest bird activity than their tart cherry cousins, the same trend was borne out there: plots without nest boxes saw an average of 1.33 pest birds; those with them reported an average of only 0.31"..............."The MSU team attributes this not just to direct predation by kestrels but also to them having a deterrent effect--THE LANDSCAPE OF FEAR PARADIGM at work in the skys of Michigan"..............."Jim Nugent, president of the Michigan Tree Fruit Commission and owner of Sunblossom Orchards, a cherry orchard in Leelanau County, was an early adopter of kestrel nest boxes and has observed their benefits for many years".............. “I’ve had a nesting pair of kestrels for many years now, and I just don’t have bird problems nearly as bad as I did before"...............“I absolutely recommend them, especially for sweet cherry orchards"............."I always felt they were effective, but now, with the MSU study, we have data to back that up"

http://www.canr.msu.edu/news/feathered-friends-how-the-american-kestrel-and-fruit-growers-are-helping-one-another


Feathered Friends: How the American kestrel and fruit growers are helping one another

MSU researchers are looking for ways to attract American kestrels to cherry orchards, helping growers control pests and conserving a species in decline.
James Dau; 7/31/17

High atop a lone tree, a small, hawk-like bird with striking blue-gray, spotted plumage bobs its head and tail, then rockets into a field to strike its unsuspecting quarry. The American kestrel, North America’s smallest and most common bird of prey, can be found standing watch across the entire continent, from as far south as the Yucatan Peninsula to as far north as central Alaska. It is also common throughout much of Central and South America.













Across its extensive range, the diminutive raptor preys on a wide variety of small creatures, such as mice, voles, lizards and large insects such as grasshoppers and dragonflies, which it spots with its highly developed vision. This same superior sense of sight also allows them to intercept bats and small birds in midair. Not only has its varied diet staked out an important niche for the species in the food web – it also plays no small part in the birds’ historic success at maintaining high populations.
Today, however, these high populations are significantly reduced. Since 1966, estimates based on data collected by the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Audubon Society and the Raptor Population Index, indicate that American kestrels have experienced an approximately 47 percent decline across North America. In Michigan, their numbers have been reduced by 28 to 43 percent, depending on the region.

A KESTREL WITH A BIRD KILL












Many causes have been proposed for this decline, from competition with larger birds of prey to disease or habitat loss through development, but none has yet gained enough empirical support to fully explain the phenomenon.

Looking into the problem

The American kestrel is not without its allies, however. In 2011, a research team led by Michigan State University (MSU) integrative biologist Catherine Lindell received a four-year, approximately $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Specialty Crops Research Initiative (SCRI) to investigate the impact of and possible solutions to crop damage by bird pests.
Word reached the team that blueberry growers in the western United States had set up nest boxes for the American kestrel to attract them to their lands and take advantage of the birds’ natural proclivity for hunting the insects, rodents and small birds that come to eat their crops.
“We thought it was something worth trying,” Lindell recalled. “We knew through MSU Extension that the cherry growers in Leelanau County were having similar problems with pest birds in their orchards, so it created an opportunity to test the technique in a region where it had the potential to really help people.”

THE RANGE MAP OF THE KESTREL












Growers in Leelanau County had a sporadic history of setting up nest boxes for kestrels, often placing them atop the very telephone poles the birds themselves choose as their perches. Lindell wanted to approach the technique in a more systematic way that also brought the kestrels into the orchards proper.
For Megan Shave, it was an opportunity to blend her interests in conservation and agriculture. Joining the project in 2012 as a graduate student, Shave oversaw the installation of 10 nest boxes in orchards throughout Leelanau County, adding to the eight that were installed in early 2012. Shortly thereafter, every box was occupied by a nesting kestrel pair.
“I came to Catherine’s lab because I’ve always been interested in birds,” Shave said. “I wanted to not only continue studying bird behavior and population dynamics but also to look into how they relate to ecosystem services – how their presence could help human activity.”
Determining the value that kestrels have for their human counterparts is critical for sustaining long-term interest in their conservation, Shave said. She and her team set up video cameras in each nest box to record what types of prey the birds brought back home. At the same time, the team measured populations of pest birds in orchards with occupied nest boxes and compared them with populations in nest box-free orchards.
The preliminary results are optimistic. In surveys of identical sweet cherry plots, Shave and her colleagues recorded an average of 3.7 pest birds when no nest boxes were present; in those with nest boxes, that number plummeted to only 0.69. Though sweet cherries are much more susceptible to pest bird activity than their tart cherry cousins, the same trend was borne out there: plots without nest boxes saw an average of 1.33 pest birds; those with them reported an average of only 0.31. Shave attributes this not just to direct predation by kestrels but also to them having a deterrent effect.








“Kestrels are unlikely to eat all the birds in that area, but we found that just having an active kestrel box in an orchard serves as a warning to other birds in the area,” Shave said. “Kestrels and their young are very loud, and we think pests such as robins and starlings learn where raptors spend time and they avoid those spaces.”
Shave’s video cameras collected evidence that the kestrels were not only warding off pest birds but also preying on more terrestrial orchard pests.
Grasshoppers and other leafdamaging insects were frequent entrees in kestrel meals, as were rodents such as meadow voles, which often damage the root systems of young trees as they burrow.
In the years since the project began, the team has put more boxes throughout Leelanau County to continued success: approximately 90 percent of the boxes remain occupied, and the local kestrel population has seen significant improvement as a result.
The original SCRI project expired in 2015, but the team’s efforts have continued under a new three-year, $500,000 grant through the National Science Foundation’s Coupled Natural- Human Systems project.
“We’ve shown that when you put up nest boxes, more kestrels appear in the area,” Lindell said. “For example, last winter we put up five boxes along a route where there had been no kestrel sightings, and this season we’ve had reports of kestrels in the area.”

 A KESTREL DIVING TO MAKE A KILL













Working for growers

Ensuring that nest boxes help growers as well as kestrels is central to the project, and something that Phil Howard, associate professor in the MSU Department of Community Sustainability, is actively studying. A member of the team since the project began in 2011, Howard has focused on gauging the attitudes of consumers and growers alike with respect to kestrel conservation and ecosystem services.
“Depending on the crop, we found through surveys and focus groups that consumers were willing to pay 30 to 32 percent more for fruit from farms that practiced conservation through nest boxes,” Howard said. “Even if, in practice, it doesn’t quite garner that price premium, this shows there’s a lot of potential interest as consumers become more aware of nest box practices.”



KESTREL WITH A BIRD KILL









With consumers interested, Howard and his graduate student, Chris Bardenhagen, who comes from a family of cherry growers in the Leelanau Peninsula, set out to work with growers, gauging their perspectives on the utility of nest boxes and their inhabitants for their orchards.
Through preliminary interviews with growers, Howard and Bardenhagen have identified a set of the 20 most significant factors – ranging from pest pressure to fruit quality to the cost of sprays and equipment – influencing grower decisions.
Bardenhagen’s task is to sit growers down with a 2-foot by 3-foot dry erase board with magnets representing each of the 20 factors. By having growers draw relationships between the factors – for example, higher fruit quality might be positively related to higher spray and equipment costs – Bardenhagen is able to gauge how growers perceive and consider the costs and benefits of orchard operations.
“Farmers do a lot of complex thinking when it comes to pest management,” Bardenhagen said. “They have numerous pests and diseases, different types of weather and combinations of conditions – it’s remarkably sophisticated. We’re helping them lay out their priorities in a visual manner, which gives us a better idea of what they’re most concerned about. And once they spend about five minutes on it, the farmers really enjoy the process.”
Howard hopes to use the information on how growers make complex decisions to inform a new online survey designed to deliver detailed information on kestrel nest boxes to growers and gauge their level of interest toward them as potential pest management solutions. That way, he says, the team can help connect growers with the resources they need to implement them.
Leelanau growers participating in the project are already reporting interest.
“We’ve gotten a lot of good feedback and cooperation from growers,” Shave said. “As we’ve expanded the project, new growers have been very interested and responsive about setting up boxes in their orchards. They tell me they often see kestrels flying over their property and believe the boxes are making a difference.”
Jim Nugent, president of the Michigan Tree Fruit Commission and owner of Sunblossom Orchards, a cherry orchard in Leelanau County, was an early adopter of kestrel nest boxes and has observed their benefits for many years.
“I’ve had a nesting pair of kestrels for many years now, and I just don’t have bird problems nearly as bad as I did before,” Nugent said. “I absolutely recommend them, especially for sweet cherry orchards. I always felt they were effective, but now, with the MSU study, we have data to back that up.”

More work ahead

The kestrel project is set to conclude in the summer of 2018, and though much has already been learned, Lindell, Shave, Howard, Bardenhagen and the rest of the team still have much more they hope to accomplish.
Chief among their remaining goals is finalizing the economic impact of using kestrels as a pest management tool. The team submitted their data to economists at the National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC), the research arm of the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s Wildlife Services program. The NWRC’s scientists focus on finding solutions to wildlife-caused damage across the spectrum of human activity, including agriculture.
In addition to measuring reductions in pest bird activity in orchards with active kestrel nest boxes, the team also estimated the volume of fruit removed from the orchards per minute by those birds.
“We were able to use that to figure out, when you have kestrels and thus fewer pest birds, how much fruit you could save with them in the field,” Lindell explained. “We’re in the process now of getting that data to our economist colleagues, who will translate that into actual financial savings.”
While the economic data are analyzed, the team plans to continue testing nest box strategies by expanding into new crops and regions of the state. Last year, Lindell and Shave traveled to the blueberry farms of Van Buren and Allegan counties in southwestern Michigan, where they worked with growers to set up new nest boxes.
To date, these efforts have seen a slower increase in local kestrel populations than in Leelanau County, which Lindell and Shave attribute to a number of potential factors. These counties feature more heavily wooded terrain as opposed to the more open environs in which the kestrel prefers to hunt. Forestland favors the much more common eastern starling, which could be outcompeting the kestrel for the nest boxes. Van Buren and Allegan also do not have the same history of farmers using nest boxes that the team found in Leelanau County, which Lindell and Shave believe contributes to having a lower starting kestrel population in the region. Despite these challenges, the team is already seeing an approximately 33 percent occupancy rate.
“Kestrels are migratory birds, and Michigan is right on the border of their migratory area,” Lindell said. “Looking at regions of the state that are farther south, closer to their year-round range, we might be able to make a larger impact in the long run.”
Conserving birds by helping growers
In 2012, the Peregrine Fund, a nonprofit organization working to improve the conservation of birds of prey around the world through research, launched the American Kestrel Partnership, a network of both professional and citizen scientists tasked with tracking and modeling kestrel populations around the entire Western Hemisphere. In so doing, the organization hopes to identify both the causes of kestrel decline and possible ways to reverse it.
As they explore the potential of kestrels as a pest management solution for fruit growers, Lindell’s team members have submitted their data to the American Kestrel Partnership to contribute to the conservation of the species.
“It’s not just for scientists,” Lindell noted. “Anyone interested in putting up a nest box can submit their data through an online tool.”
For growers interested in setting up nest boxes, the team has learned a number of lessons for getting the most out of them.
Placing them in open areas away from encroaching woodland and spacing them half a mile from other boxes significantly increase the odds that kestrels will occupy them by reducing competition for shelter from forest-dwelling starlings and for hunting ground from other kestrels. When looking for the ideal location, it is also important to note that kestrels have been observed to thrive the most in mixed landscape environments, featuring both young and old orchards accompanied by pasture land. The team also cautions against the use of rodenticides during the time period when kestrels are active in the landscape because the poison can be transferred to the birds through their prey.
“I love the fact that these birds are already out there, doing things that are helpful to us,” Lindell said. “If we can use nest boxes to better direct their activities and even enhance them, we can help them while they help us. We can help the birds, growers and, ultimately, consumers, all at the same time.”
Being able to conserve a struggling species and help improve the operations of Michigan growers at the same time makes this a dream project for a scientist like Shave.
“Kestrels are beautiful, charismatic animals that people are immediately intrigued by and care about,” Shave said. “This project has been a great example of how conservation and industry concerns don’t have to be mutually exclusive. We’ve shown how both sides can become invested in the goals of the other. It’s something that’s worthwhile for everyone involved.”