Local study may help dwindling American Kestrel population

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SALT LAKE CITY -  The future for one hawk species is dwindling.

A study underway in Utah is aiming to answer questions about the shrinking population of a small hawk, the American Kestrel.

Some scientists believe the health of bird populations, specifically birds of prey, can be an indication of the health of the entire ecosystem.

"We've got about 150 nest boxes up and down the Wasatch Front as part of a study to understand why American Kestrel populations are declining across North America," said Dave Oleyar, a scientist at Hawk Watch International.

Hawk Watch has their eyes on the greater Salt Lake Area because Kestrels can be found here in urban and agricultural areas, as well as unaltered landscapes like the wetlands of the Great Salt Lake.

"What we'll eventually do is look between all those different landscapes. Are there differences in percentages? Are there differences in productivity," said Oleyar.

Kestrel populations may benefit from the study itself.

"They typically would nest in holes in trees, but a lot of times we don't leave those up on the landscape, so cavities disappear," said Oleyar.

This year they have a total of 32 active nests compared to only 17 last year.

"By putting nest boxes up we're putting back sort of that feature in the landscape that Kestrels need to breed in those areas,"  said Oleyar.

Hawk Watch International is always looking for volunteers to help out.

For more information on how you can help, visit their website: http://www.hawkwatch.org/2014-01-07-17-41-21/volunteer

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