American Kestrel Research
Kestrels are the smallest falcon in North America and are found in Michigan primarily during the warmer months of the year for their breeding season. They spend the rest of the year in the southern portion of the US as well as throughout Central and South America. According to Cornell University, their population is in decline and they have lost half of their population in the past 50 years alone. The reason for the decline is unknown.
Chris Johnson, our assistant director and resident kestrel expert, has recently built a kestrel nesting box for his yard and installed a camera to document the nest. This box is registered with the American Kestrel Partnership, which is part of the Peregrine Fund. The Fund is studying the decline of the kestrel throughout North America.
Lead Poisoning Research
A pair of studies recently concluded that eagles across the globe suffer from chronic lead poisoning.
The first, published in Science, concluded that nearly half of bald and golden eagles in America showed signs of lead poisoning. The second, conducted by the University of Cambridge, found similar levels in Europe and noted that the poisoning was reducing their eagle population by 14%.
SRC hopes to conduct a similar study this summer on our local eagle population to raise awareness of the dangers of using lead fishing tackle and ammunition. By teaming up with Brookside Veterinary Hospital, SRC hopes to send at least ten blood samples from the eagles to Michigan State University's lab for analysis.
Chronic lead exposure in eagles has a variety of symptoms and needs to be confirmed through blood testing. Some of the symptoms include tremors, lack of coordination, and refusal to eat. The treatment options are limited and expensive. Death from lead poisoning is slow and painful and is proceeded by blindness, brain damage, and organ failure.