Researchers Investigate Climate Change Effects on American Kestrel

This summer, biology professor Julie Heath and raptor biology student Sadie Ranck, along with temporary project tech Kayla Dreher, are continuing their investigation of the impact of environmental change on the American Kestrel. Monitoring about 100 nest boxes south of Boise, Heath and Ranck have been able to band young birds, conduct egg counts, and monitor nesting success and survival rates, all to ultimately determine if and how local kestrels are adapting to climate change.

“In southern Idaho, American kestrels have shifted their breeding season to be earlier in the year and kestrels migrate shorter distances with warming winters associated with climate change,” said Heath. “From what we can tell, neither of these changes in their biology has had a negative effect on the local population. We are using this long-term, local system to understand why some birds are able to adapt to changing climate.”

Heath began studying American kestrels in 1993, when she was a student in the Boise State raptor biology program. She started to lead the long-term project in 2008.

“Raptors are a fascinating group of birds to study because they reflect the magnitude and extent of environmental change in our natural systems,” said Heath. “And, their beauty and power inspire people to listen to the science and care about conservation.”