- Fruits: cherries
- Pest Management: Nest Boxes
Management of pest species via a native predator is a sustainable practice that promotes natural predator-prey relationships in agroecosystems. Previous studies have shown that raptors can reduce rodent and bird prey abundances. The American Kestrel is a widespread species of falcon that has shown long-term population declines due in part to loss of natural nesting cavities; however, kestrels readily use nest boxes, which allow for breeding in areas that may provide valuable hunting habitat, such as agricultural areas. Farmers can therefore easily install these low-cost nest boxes to attract breeding kestrels. However, the use of kestrels for agricultural pest management has received limited investigation. New nest boxes installed in Michigan cherry orchards since 2012 have been used extensively by kestrels. In addition, my early dissertation research has shown that these kestrels kill known pest species. This project will provide quantitative assessments of kestrel predation to evaluate the potential for kestrels to contribute to an Integrated Pest Management strategy for orchards in the North Central region.I will conduct summer surveys to determine whether artificial perches can increase kestrel presence in orchards and in turn reduce fruit-eating bird abundances. I will also use fall and winter camera trap surveys to determine whether summer kestrel presence, overwintering raptor presence, and orchard features such as snow depth and edge habitat affect rodent abundances during the winter, when damage to trees is most likely. Finally, I will employ my nest box cameras to obtain a comprehensive record of prey deliveries to nests, and I will use GPS data loggers to measure habitat use and home range sizes. I will use these data to produce predictive models of prey removal based on estimates of how many prey breeding kestrels remove and over what spatial extent their predation occurs.Growers can use these results to inform their choice to install kestrel nest boxes and perches in and around orchards in order to reduce and/or complement use of more financially and environmentally costly deterrence methods, such as rodenticides. Fruit consumers view nest box use for pest management favorably, so nest boxes may provide additional financial incentives through marketing benefits. Finally, orchard nest boxes for kestrels provide growers with a way to participate in conservation of a declining native species.
Project objectives from proposal:
Objective 1) Effect of supplemental perches on kestrel presence and fruit-eating bird abundances in orchards:
Objective 2) Effect of kestrel nest boxes and supplemental perches on winter rodent abundances in orchards:
Objective 3) Estimating number of prey removed and extent of prey removal by kestrels breeding in orchard nest boxes: