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Keeping up with kestrels

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Keeping up with kestrels

‘First-of-its-kind’ falcon tracking program took flight in Rappahannock

It is fast, fierce and flashy, with a plumage of oranges and slate blues for males; reddish-brown hues for females. Chances are you have seen one perched on a fence post or power line, surveying open fields for a meal. About the size of a mourning dove, it hovers like a helicopter before it swoops to catch a small rodent or insect.

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An adult female American kestrel with a lightweight GPS transmitter attached at Bruce Jones’ property near Washington last year.


The late Roger Jones, a Rappahannock resident who was involved with studying kestrels and other raptors for years.


American Kestrel Project team members Dr. Joe Kolowski, Caylen Wolfer, and Megan McDaniels (left to right) hold three male nestlings after measuring and attaching small radio transmitters to them. Two birds from each of the ten study nests were given lightweight radio transmitters to aid in tracking their movements and survival after they fledged.



Megan McDaniels, a research technician with the Clifton Institute, with a video scope that checks the Kestrel boxes. The device was built by Alan Williams who is like “MacGyver.”


Megan McDaniels, a research technician with the Clifton Institute, tracks fledgling Kestrel with a VHF radio tag.


Alan Williams examines the keel of a week-old American kestrel chick to assess its body condition. Chick growth was measured multiple times during the nestling stage to understand how differences in surrounding habitat and toxin exposure may affect their health and development.


An adult male American kestrel in the process of receiving a GPS transmitter.


Megan McDaniels inputs location data of the fledgeling Kestrels at the Clifton Institute


Project Co-Principal Investigator Alan Williams in Woodville, Va., where he maintains a Kestrel box.


Bruce Jones with a Kestrel box he hosts.


Project Co-Principal Investigator Alan Williams maintains a kestrel and barn owl box on Lyle Alexander’s silo in Woodville, with the help of Dick Raines (walking, center).

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