Give an American kestrel family a home

Photo by Patrick Ready

Photo by Patrick Ready

American kestrels are a beloved falcon for their tiny stature, big personality, and beautiful coloring. However, the kestrel  population in our region declined 41% between 1966 and 2014, according to Breeding Bird Survey data. This is partly due to loss of their natural nesting trees with cavities. Our goal is to reverse that trend.

This project is coordinated by MAS volunteer Brand Smith, Goose Pond Sanctuary staff, and many volunteers. This group has constructed, erected, and monitored 153 kestrel nest boxes since 2009! Nest boxes provide kestrels with a much-needed safe nesting cavity to raise a brood of young and are an effective tool in increasing kestrel numbers overall.

In 2017, a record number of 190 kestrels fledged, and 32 adults and 102 chicks were banded from 47 boxes. And in the past five years, an amazing 572 young have fledged! See the full dataset from our monitoring and banding efforts, and the locations for confirmed kestrel nesting pairs in the Breeding Bird Atlas II.


Get Involved

Join the team of over 20 volunteers across seven counties in south-central Wisconsin who make frequent visits to nearby nest boxes to document nest activity, including return of adults, egg laying, hatching, and fledging. To monitor nests, volunteers use various methods, ranging from small spy cameras to cell phones to photograph the inside of nest boxes, and use this information to complete datasheets. It is a fun and rewarding activity!

To volunteer or if you have a specific question, contact:

Brand Smith - Kestrel Nest Box Monitoring Program coordinator
   Phone: 608-444-8952

Mark Martin - Goose Pond Sanctuary resident co-manager
   Phone: 608-333-9645

MAS Photo

MAS Photo

For general questions, contact:

Brenna Marsicek - Madison Audubon director of communications
   Phone: 608-255-2473


Additional Resources

  • Our nest box program works closely with the Central Wisconsin Kestrel Research project, based out of Stevens Point. They're a wealth of knowledge and are doing incredible work to understand and conserve these tiny falcons! Their staff work with our volunteers and the Madison Audubon staff to band kestrels from our nest boxes each summer (as shown in this photo).
  • The American Kestrel Partnership, part of the Peregrine Fund, is a nation-wide conservation program to support kestrels. Many kestrels which nest in our boxes are banded and a tiny feather sample is sent to the AKP to study kestrel genetics.


Banner photo by Patrick Ready