Central Wisconsin Kestrel Research
Kestrel Biology


Buena Vista GrasslandsBuena Vista Program

In the early 1900s, draining and ditching transformed the marshes of Central Wisconsin into pasture, grass fields and cropland. Most of the fields failed and the land was abandoned, reverting to idle grasslands and marshes. These marshes straddle Portage, Adams and Waushara Counties.

The Buena Vista Grassland and Leola Grassland have been managed for the Greater Prairie Chicken since 1954. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) manages the grasslands, which total more than 12,000 acres. Buena Vista is also home to one of the longest running American Kestrel nest box studies in the United States. It was started by the well-known naturalist Frances Hamerstom.

Fran had located just 3 kestrel nests in over 20 years on the Buena Vista, all in abandoned buildings. Hamerstom wondered if the lack of nest sites might be limiting the kestrels from nesting in greater numbers, so in 1968, she started the Buena Vista Grassland Kestrel project with 50 nest boxes. After her death in 1998, the next box program was revitalized with the support of the WDNR, D. Haessly and the Aldo Leopold Audubon Society. The project also restated its goals: its first was to establish more nesting American Kestrels on the Buena Vista Grasslands; the second was to gather data on the impact that the grassland management practices have on nesting kestrels.

Our program currently monitors 58 nest boxes on the grasslands, which fledge approximately 100 chicks each year. Since 2002, the average nest box occupancy rate is near 60%. Kestrel numbers in Central Wisconsin appear to be stable at this time.

The Buena Vista Kestrel Research Program was pleased to be chosen as one of the 2008 recipients of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) Citizens-Based Monitoring Partnership Grant. University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point wildlife professor, Eric Anderson, saw the needs of our program and assisted in acquiring this grant. This grant provided the funding for much needed equipment and the financial support to cover the 2008 field season. We are very appreciative of the grant committee and Eric for making new equipment a reality!

North Study Area

In the fall of 2008, we expanded our study to a new area 30 miles northeast of the Buena Vista study area. 35 nest boxes were erected in the townships of New Hope, Sharon, Custer and Norrie. We are excited to compare clutch size, hatcing and fledging success between the two study areas. This expansion was made possible by the WDNR's donation of nest boxes to the program.

Additional Research Websites

Hawk Mountain | http://www.hawkmountain.org
Searchable Ornithological Research Archive | http://elibrary.unm.edu/sora
Raptor Information System | http://ris.wr.usgs.gov
Raptor Information System | http://raptorresearchfoundation.org
Hawk Migration Association of North America | http://www.hmana.org
Wisconsin Society for Ornithology | http://www.wsobirds.org
Linwood Springs Research Station | http://www.raptorresearch.com

Central Wisconsin Kestrel research would like to thank the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR), Greg Dahl, Jim Keir, Loren Ayers, Gene Jacobs, Eric Anderson, Bob Rosenfield, The Citizen-Based Monitoring Partnership Program, Dennis Haessly, Eagle Optics and The Aldo Leopold Audubon Society. This research program would not be possible without their support.