1 August 1997

Want to help the kestrel?

THE kestrel, that brilliant little falcon that hovers, is currently the subject of an important study by the Hawk and Owl Trust which is looking for young kestrel watchers all over the country to help them with their project.

While the sparrowhawk has enjoyed a population increase (some would say explosion) the breeding kestrel population in the UK has declined by up to 40% in some areas. The British Trust for Ornithology has put the kestrel on its Amber list for species with medium conservation concern.

Monitoring bird numbers over the years has highlighted a broad range of relatively common birds in trouble, most noticeably those living on farmland. Conservationists now need to try to understand why the population declines have occurred and how they might be able to stabilise the population and reverse the decline.

Probably the best place to see kestrels is by roadsides where the rough grass hides their prey of small mammals and insects. During the breeding season, with nestlings to feed, kestrels are much more active. They cant afford to sit and wait for prey passing below them or their young would go hungry and even die. Thats when hovering comes in. Kestrels are more likely to be seen hovering in summer than in winter.

If you or your school would like to take part in the study, a detailed survey form is part of a splendid fact pack, Inroads to Birds of Prey, which has been produced in conjunction with the Highways Agency. It contains a kestrel mobile to construct, a poster, a kestrel board game, a birds of prey fact file and more.

Fact packs cost £4 (inc p&p) from the Hawk and Owl Trust, Westcott Venture Park, Westcott, Aylesbury, Bucks.

Michael Edwards

Young people are invited to help the Hawk and Owl Trust carry out a Kestrel project.