- We are currently collecting feather samples across the breeding, migratory, and wintering range of the American kestrel for genetic analysis (see project details here).
- When feathers are collected, a small amount of skin remains on the base of the feather, which can be used for genetic analyses!
- If you are properly permitted to handle and collect feathers from kestrels, please get involved with this large collaborative project.
- We are asking volunteers to pull 4 body feathers from each bird.
- Right now, our goal is to collect 4 feathers from ONE nestling per brood (we want unrelated individuals) during breeding season. AND 4 feathers per adult during the migratory and wintering seasons.
- The more samples we have from different locations, the better our map will be and the more we will learn about American Kestrels and annual cycles of birds.
Citizen scientists, wildlife professionals, banders, wildlife rehabbers, and more! Anyone who handles American kestrels during the breeding, migratory, or wintering season and has the proper skills and permits to collect feathers.
WHEN AND WHERE
DURING THE BREEDING SEASON
- We welcome samples collected from nestlings or adults between 1 April – 15 August from all over the North American breeding range of the American Kestrel, but there are some areas from which we urgently need samples!
- This map shows locations where we have received feathers from American Kestrels in the breeding season (orange), migration season (yellow) and winter season (blue) from 2017 and prior years. (Not pictured: Alaska). We welcome samples from all locations, but if you work with kestrels in an areas without dots, WE NEED YOUR HELP! Please SIGN UP to contribute feathers, or see our GET INVOLVED page to find out more.
- We welcome samples collected between 15 August – 31 October or between 1 March – 31 March from along migratory routes of American Kestrels which breed in North America.
DURING THE WINTERING SEASON
- We welcome samples collected between 1 November – 28 February from all over the wintering range of American Kestrels which breed in North America.
- This map shows locations where we have potential winter feather sample contributers (2017: purple triangles). We welcome samples from all locations, but if you work with kestrels in an areas without triangles, WE NEED YOUR HELP! Please SIGN UP to contribute feathers, or see our GET INVOLVED page to find out more.
- Make sure you have the proper federal, state, and in some cases international permits. See Permit Requirements below for detailed information and please contact us if you have an questions.
Sign Up Here
And we will send you a Sampling Kit and shipping information
- You will receive labeled envelopes for data collection, and a detailed feather sampling protocol, copies of our permits for receiving your samples, and the proper pre-paid envelopes and instructions to mail us the feather samples
(an electronic version of protocol can be found here)
- If you have any questions or would like more information about the project and how to get involved, please Contact Us
In the United States, to collect 4 body feathers from American kestrels, you will need
1) A federal bird banding permit from the USGS Bird Banding Laboratory (BBL) with proper authorization to take, possess and transport feather samples.
A USFWS Collections permit with proper authorization to take, possess and transport feather samples.
2) Permission from your State agency. For State specific requirements, please visit: http://naturalhistory.si.edu/BIRDNET/permit/index.html
In Canada, to collect 4 body feathers from American kestrels
1) If you already have a Canadian Bird Banding Permit from the Canadian Bird Banding Office (Environment and Climate Change Canada) you will need to add proper authorization to take, possess and transport feather samples
AND you will need a Scientific Collection permit from your province/territory
2) If you do not have a Canadian Bird Banding Permit, you can apply for a Scientific Collection/Wildlife Research permit from your province/territory to collect feather samples from American Kestrels
Countries outside of the United States and Canada will have different permit requirements to collect American Kestrel feathers depending on laws and regulations in that country. Please contact your local wildlife agency to determine requirements.
If you are unsure whether you meet the above requirements, and would like help navigating the federal, state or international permitting systems, we can help! Please Contact Us
THANK YOU for helping us us collect feathers in 2016, and THANK YOU in advance to those of you planning to collect feathers in 2017! This project wouldn’t be possible without your help!
Do I need to wear gloves? No. Just be careful not to handle the tip of the feather where it went into the skin.
Do samples need to be refrigerated? No, just keep samples in a cool, dark place until you are ready to ship.
Do feathers need to be pin feathers with blood in sheaths? No, we encourage you to collect grown feathers (contours; see photo below) on the belly or breast of the bird. We get DNA from skin cells attached to the tip of the feather, not from blood inside pin feathers.
Can I collect feathers from kestrel carcasses? Yes. If the kestrel died relatively recently, collection of feathers should still provide DNA for analysis. In these cases, please pull out a clump of feathers, ensuring that a visible amount of skin is attached to the tip. Please note that collection permits are still required whether feathers are taken from live or dead birds.