A group out of Estes Park is working to help a vital animal species rebound along the Front Range.
Scott Rashid, director of the Colorado Avian Research and Rehabilitation Institute in Estes Park, recently visited Loveland to install multiple nest boxes for kestrels, which are North America’s smallest falcon.
“What’s happening is their habitat is being destroyed due to housing developments, they have disease issues — a number of things are causing these birds to decline, so we’re putting up nest boxes with the goal of having 200 boxes placed as soon as we can,” he said. “(We) have about 90 boxes placed.”
Kestrel numbers are declining, but the Colorado Avian Research and Rehabilitation Institute found that giving them a place to live — these boxes — is helping the species recover. Once the boxes are placed, the kestrels do the rest of the work, Rashid said.
Rashid explained that kestrels are an important species along the Front Range. They feed on insects, mice and snakes, so without them, those populations would explode, he said.
“Just the fact that these kestrels are a native North American bird that needs help and we have the ability to help them — we should be,” he said. “And if it’s just as simple as putting up a nest box, if that’s all it takes to give these birds a better place to live and increase the numbers — we should be doing that and that’s part of the project.”
Rashid, who has been working with kestrels for almost 30 years, started the American Kestrel Project two or three years ago, he said. Its focus is designing, building and placing nest boxes for kestrels.
“I’m passionate about a lot of different species, but the kestrels are one of the first birds I remember seeing as a child and when I started reading about these birds declining, and finding a simple solution just to build a couple boxes and put them up, it became a no-brainer,” he said.
The cities of Loveland, Louisville, Superior and Longmont, along with Colorado Parks and Wildlife and an oil company, have partnered with the project to put up kestrel boxes.
“That’s how important this project is to all these different locations,” Rashid said. “If we’re going to be on this planet, and we can help something, then we should be helping. If all it takes is a couple pieces of wood and some screws, well why not?”
Debbie Eley with city of Loveland Parks and Recreation said they wanted to support Rashid’s mission and have tried to help him determine suitable places to install the boxes. She said the public has been very interested in the birds, which has led to plenty of education opportunities.
“We want people to get out and enjoy our sites, but we also want people to appreciate where they are and why we have these places, and we always work to balance conservation and recreation,” she said.